BUILDING work on Nationwide’s flagship 235-home development could start next September.

The homes bid on the old Oakfield campus site, off Marlowe Avenue, has been welcomed by South Swindon Parish Council. The planning committee heard that a planning application would be submitted at the end of the year, with hopes of starting building in autumn 2019.

Parish chairman Chris Watts praised Nationwide Building Society’s approach to the development, which has seen them hire a community organiser to knock on doors in the surrounding area and ask people what facilities they want to see in the area.

But at a meeting of the parish planning committee this week, Claire Bennie, a planning consultant for firm Igloo admitted there was no clear business model for a community café planned for the Walcot site.

Asked directly about the café business model by parish councillor Toby Robson, Ms Bennie said: “The honest answer to that is no there is not a business plan.

“One of Keith’s role as community organiser is by very gradual degrees to find individuals or existing community organisations who feel they are able to take something like that on either on a voluntary or paid basis.

“We hope those individuals or organisations will come forward. If for some reason that just does not coalesce and isn’t viable, frankly you can fit two flats in that space.

“That’s not what we want, but it really does rely on those individuals coming forward. Nationwide is more than prepared to make every effort to make that work.”

A draft masterplan for the 235-home development has already been drawn up by architects. The plans, which feature a mixture of one to four-bed houses and flats, were shown to members of the public in June after more than six months of consultation.

Nick Spittal of Nationwide told parish councillors: “Our focus is very much about engaging the community and asking them what they think and not just putting a standard three bed, four bed and block of flats.

“Nationwide is planning to develop the site but then we also want people to think good things about it in five years and 10 years’ time.

“Once we’ve developed the properties and are selling them, we want to be fully transparent not only about the properties being built, what’s available to people and how the properties will be managed. People will be fully informed from the outset about what they’re buying.”

Coun Chris Watts, chairman of the parish council, was impressed by the approach: “Goodness me, we’re not used to this. Normally when we get a development like this it’s from a developer trying to squeeze as much profit out of the land as possible, one previous one for example in Badbury Park, where their idea of a community facility was no more than a broom cupboard.”

He asked if a green corridor linking two parts of the development was set in stone.

Mr Spittal replied: “That’s a red line to us and a red line to the planners.”

Coun Neil Hopkins joked: “I’m not sure if we trust red lines at the moment.”