WORK is about to start on the next phase of the Wichelstowe housing development which will add 478 new properties to the area.

The first foundations for the homes will now be laid along with new infrastructure and landscaped areas following Swindon Borough Council's decision to transfer the next parcel of land.

This phase includes 182 homes at Wichel Fields, just to the east of Canalside, and 296 homes at the Orchards to the north of the development.

Canalside is the first phase and will be completed shortly, with many of the homes already occupied. Over the next 20 years, a total of 3,000 new properties will be built in Wichelstowe, one of the largest local authority joint venture agreements in the country.

It is being built by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes in partnership with Swindon Borough Council. The 250-hectare site on the southern edge of Swindon will include new schools and community facilities, open spaces, nature conservation areas, playing pitches and allotments.

Wichelstowe project director Daniel Pavely said: "With the community really taking shape here at Canalside, we're really excited to be able to start work on the next phase of this landmark development.

"We'll be building a wide range of high quality, contemporary new homes in a variety of sizes and styles helping to encourage a balanced, mixed community.

"As well as starting on the main road connections, we're really looking forward to developing the open space, conservation areas and protections and enhancements for wildlife."

As well as the new homes, which will range from one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom family homes, the next phase of the development will include work on the public, open space and conservation areas.

Swindon Borough Council's deputy leader and cabinet member for planning Coun Gary Sumner said: "We are very proud of this flagship new development now growing at Wichelstowe delivering much-needed new homes for the people of Swindon for generations to come.

"We're delighted to be able to hand over the next parcel of land, allowing work to start on the next phase, which will also include large areas of public, green space as well as nature conservation areas for the enjoyment of both the local community and our precious wildlife."

The site will have space for plenty of greenery among all the new homes.

Hundreds of new trees, new ponds, wildflower grassland will be planted to attract a range of bees and other pollinators along with broader wildlife habitat creation and protection, such as the creation of sheltered areas for hibernating animals.

The existing footpath network will be improved and extended through the woodland and nature conservation areas.

This will include the first section of a central boardwalk which will help to ensure the natural, open green space is fully accessible for everyone to enjoy throughout the year.

The Orchards area will be planted with a range of species including apple, cherry and walnut trees.

More than 200 new bird boxes will be built in and around the new homes, which will be highly sustainable and energy efficient in line with Barratt Developments' commitment to becoming a net zero carbon housebuilder.

The plans include new drainage infrastructure for the site such as ponds and swales which will eventually feed into the newly-restored Wilts & Berks canal which runs through the development.