WORK has begun on a major new 3,520 home housing development in Basingstoke.

The developers of the 2,000-acre Manydown site have begun archaeological digs to look for finds of national importance ahead of building the new homes next year.

The site was bought by the borough council in 1996 to be developed.

Now, 25 years later, work has finally begun on the land to bring much-needed new homes to the town, with the first set to be ready to move into by 2023.

The £1.2 billion project is being carried out by developers Ubran&Civic and global charitable foundation The Wellcome Trust, which formed a partnership with landowners Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council.

Survey work has now started to prepare the land for the infrastructure works next year.

The works include a range of archaeological trench digs and excavation as well as utility and drainage evaluations, which will give the developers a fuller picture of the character and history of the area.

The initial archaeological trenching is expected to last up to four months, and follows earlier surveys completed as part of the planning process, which did not highlight any archaeological finds of national importance.

The Museum of London Archaeology, which has offices in Basingstoke, has been appointed to carry out the first phase of archaeological works.

After the trenching, open excavation work is expected to take place during 2022 to give a greater understanding of the heritage of the land.

Any archaeological evidence will be carefully recorded and collected, allowing archaeologists from Hampshire County Council and Historic England to reveal further insights into the earliest chapters in Basingstoke’s history to share with the community.

Manydown is set to bring 3,520 new homes to Basingstoke, along with two primary schools.

Land has been reserved for a potential new secondary school, local centres, businesses, shops, and community facilities including a 250-acre park.

Richard Coppell, group development director of Urban&Civic: “Whilst these initial works are important, they are one of the first visible signs of work on site and we want to keep our local communities updated. Archaeological work will be a continuing feature over the next 12 months and behind the scenes, we are working closely with our partners to get ready for a construction start in 2022.”

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance and major projects Cllr John Izett said: “It is welcome news that, after years of careful planning and talking to local communities about what they want to see at Manydown, the preparations for starting development are beginning.

“This is a significant step on our journey towards creating an outstanding new community including a 250-acre country park that will provide sustainable homes, great community facilities and new employment opportunities, all in a great living environment.”

Councillor Keith Mans, leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “The start of preparatory work on site at Manydown is a positive milestone in the progression of this exciting development. Manydown is set to create a vibrant new community for Basingstoke, with easy access to amenities, surrounded by parkland and nature. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, this is also a welcome demonstration of economic activity in Hampshire that is supporting jobs and growth.”

Planning permission for Manydown was granted by the borough council last year.