Last Thursday, January 18, was a landmark day for the council as we were finally able to announce the signing of a joint venture with Barratt Developments, which will deliver around 2,750 homes at Wichelstowe.

Led by my Cabinet colleague, councillor Toby Elliott, we have been in negotiations with Barratt for several months to finalise the joint venture and the 50-50 partnership was announced to the Stock Exchange.

Wichelstowe has provided us with an opportunity to explore ways to not only generate significant income, but create a place which adds value to the town as a whole.

As a pro-growth authority we have not sat on our hands and waited for a developer to deliver the site but have instead taken proactive steps to put together a new masterplan for the site and secure a number of high quality operators within the District Centre.

We already have the Waitrose store successfully trading, the new Church of England secondary school is really beginning to take shape and work will start next month on a Hall and Woodhouse pub/restaurant. All the ingredients are in place to create a vibrant community from the moment the first new residents move in.

We have taken a long-term view with this development as we felt the provision of facilities upfront was essential to create the sense of place which will not only attract potential house buyers, but also provide the heart and soul that are too often missing from large housing developments.

The Wichelstowe development has also allowed us to focus on the housing needs of the town. With large employers competing for new staff it is essential for the economic growth of the area that there is an attractive housing offer for those higher earners looking to move into Swindon. We are also increasingly looking to housing which meets the needs of our ageing population.

To kick-start housing delivery we have established a new housing company as a vehicle for the council to directly participate in house building. We have already completed our first small-scale town centre housing development and planning permission has also been secured for a further 85 homes in Wichelstowe with construction due to start in just a few months. These homes are spacious, bright properties which sit either side of the attractive Wilts and Berks Canal setting a strong precedent for the quality of housing we are looking to see built across the borough.

Our joint venture with Barratt will deliver quality houses at scale across the remainder of Wichelstowe and the Council will be active participants in the partnership, providing land and financing, while receiving an equal share of the returns.

The first new homes will be delivered by the Joint Venture in 2019 and I am looking forward to welcoming the first new residents.