More people than ever will be able to claim their address is the ‘oldest house in Swindon’.

The historic listed building, which is actually two separate houses with a carriageway separating them, will be turned into flats.

Planners at Swindon Borough Council have given the go-ahead to a plan by Chalk Hills Wiltshire Ltd, a building firm based in Lawn in Swindon to redevelop 17 and 18 Newport Street in Old Town from two 19th century homes into five flats.

The approved proposals include knocking down modern extensions to the building and replacing them with four more flats, bringing the total to nine.

Whoever moves in will have a home in a building with a fascinating history.

While the pale stucco facade seems unremarkable enough, the large blue door in the middle of the building is flanked by another door each. Those are the doors into the separate houses, while the large central door is wide enough for a horse-drawn carriage, and hides a small street between the houses. While the building, which is grade II listed, is believed to date back to the late 18th century, the thoroughfare in its middle was added towards the end of the 19th.

The historic building statement prepared for the applicants says: “The carriageway must have been inserted between 1886 and 1900. At the rear of No 17 a stable was built, now accessible by horses.

“In 1970 the two buildings were owned by Harold and Marjorie Easthope who converted it to one dwelling with a connecting corridor at first floor only and a fine art gallery.”

The report adds that the claim of the building being Swindon’s oldest house can’t be substantiated, but Newport Street has been in existence as a road in Swindon since at least the 14th century.

The developers propose turning the building into five one-bed flats.

The extensions to the back of the houses in its yard will be demolished and the land used to build four more flats. Running in a L-shape down the eastern boundary, a new building would feature two duplex apartments and two flats at the end of the yard.

Cycle storage and bin storage will also be created, and there is no space for parking cars on the site.

There will be little change to the appearance of the street front and the extension will be built in similar materials. The report to planners says: “The new buildings are designed to complement their surroundings, the use of render, stone sills and slate roofs prevail.”

South Swindon Parish Council had no objections to the plans, but two neighbours objected on the grounds over overcrowding.

Work must start within three years of permission being granted.