PREPARATORY work for a major new 3,500 home housing development in Basingstoke is set to begin in “the next few weeks” with new homes ready by 2023.

Responding to criticisms that work has not yet begun on the Manydown development, Richard Coppell, group development director of Urban&Civic, which has formed a partnership with the council to deliver the £1.2 billion project, said it is ready to move forward.

As previously reported, borough councillor Sven Godsen raised concerns about the council struggling to meet its five-year land supply, and said residents were owed an explanation about why “not a brick has been laid” at the 2,000 acre Manydown site, despite it being bought in 1996 to be developed - 25 years ago. 

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, who own the land, entered into a new partnership with one of the UK's leading master developers - Urban&Civic - and a global charitable foundation - The Wellcome Trust to deliver the project. 

Mr Coppell told the Gazette: “A development like Manydown needs a number of legal requirements in place before activity can start on site and it is vitally important that we take the necessary time now to get these right.

“The partnership has been working on finalising the legal obligations and agreements needed to allow the project to move forward and preparatory works will start at Manydown within the next few weeks, enabling infrastructure works in 2022 ahead of new homes in 2023.”

The Gazette asked the borough council why there has been such a lengthy delay to starting the project.

Councillor John Izett, the broough council’s cabinet lead on Manydown, said: “Getting to this point has taken time but that is the nature of large-scale residential developments.

“This is a new community of 3,500 homes for over 8,000 people, with a country park, new schools, community facilities, shops and business space and comprehensive infrastructure, including roads, drainage and sewerage systems, power and communications networks.

“There has been extensive community engagement as Manydown needs to be a good neighbour and deliver a well-designed, well-built new community that will be both successful and cherished by its residents and their families. It is good that headway is being made.”

Responding to concerns about the impact the delay to Manydown has had on the council’s five-year land supply, councillor Simon Bound, the borough council’s cabinet member for communities, planning and infrastructure, said: “The council has a 4.8 year supply of deliverable housing sites at the current time and continues to take a proactive approach, working with developers, to improve this position in line with our housing delivery action plan.

“Two large housing allocations in the Local Plan, namely Manydown and the Basingstoke Golf Course, have been granted planning permission, subject to the signing of legal agreements. The legal agreement required for the golf course site has now been agreed and we are continuing to work with the applicants for Manydown to finalise the legal agreement for this development.

“Our proactive approach to ensure the borough has a strong supply of deliverable housing sites is also reflected in the high levels of housing completions over the past three years, with 1,241 new homes completed during 2020/21 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Alongside our work on the borough’s land supply, we are working on an update to our current Local Plan to ensure we continue to have strong planning policies in place, shaped by the people who live here, that protect the borough and environment from unsustainable development and create the kind of place we want Basingstoke and Deane to be.”