Wichelstowe fields forever


Labelled “South West England’s boldest new housing development,” Wichelstowe has recently grown to more than 4,000 homes. The council developer and Barratt tell Jack Wooler about this latest modular expansion to what is already a mammoth scheme

A new development – Wichel Fields, the product of a joint venture between Swindon Borough Council and Barratt Developments – is in the works. It expands the JV’s wider urban development to the south of Swindon – Wichelstowe – to over 4,000 homes.

Utilising offsite modular construction methods, the new homes’ timber frames represent the JV’s commitment to continue to invest in such technology and produce more efficient homes, faster.

The homes will bring a range of environmental benefits, not just in their construction, but in their running costs, as well as in the biodiversity around the project. The project team is introducing bat and swift boxes, and undertaking a range of mitigating measures for the local wildlife around the nearby canal.

Once complete, Wichel Fields will include around 400 homes, ranging from one bed apartments to the four bed townhouses which line the main street running through the site, with the first residents set to move in this winter. 

All the homes are EPC grade A and B, and come with electric vehicle charging points. A total of 15% of the properties have been designated as affordable housing, split between shared ownership and affordable rent. 

The site already benefits from a school campus, Waitrose supermarket, and a Hall and Woodhouse pub alongside the canal. This central area was delivered early in the development, recognising the importance of key amenities to new residents. 


Established in January 2018, the joint venture claims to combine the strengths of the public and private sectors. Daniel Pavely, project director at Wichelstowe LLP, describes its aims as to “create a high-quality and attractive development.” The JV operates on a “50/50 decision making basis,” with both parties contributing funding, and sharing risks and rewards.

Wichelstowe first received outline planning consent in 2005 for a 250 hectare site located on former farmland between Swindon’s urban area, and the M4 to the south. 

“The location offers excellent connections both into Swindon and to the wider transport network, says Pavely. “It is also well connected to the extensive areas of countryside surrounding Swindon.” 


In September 2021, the first phase of Wichel Fields was transferred from the Council to Wichelstowe LLP in accordance with the joint venture agreements. 

As a greenfield site, the land had already been subject to both a programme of ecological clearance to ensure Great Crested Newts were protected during development, as well as an archaeological ‘strip, map and record’ due to its close proximity to a scheduled monument. 

A site-wide approach was taken, with new habitats created for the newts, as well as those for the local water voles. The importance of the canal as a home for both protected species and the population of ducks, swans and herons that inhabit its waters has been bolstered by attenuation ponds and new waterbodies developed by the JV.

Within the homes themselves, boxes for swifts and bats, as well as ‘hedgehog highways’ have been specified to ensure wildlife remains welcome with the built areas too.

“As Wichel Fields is built out,” Pavely says, “the site will also include a new section of the Wilts and Berks Canal, which, in combination with swales and ponds, will provide both an attractive feature and a large-scale sustainable drainage solution.”


In terms of enabling infrastructure, the priority works included the construction of a new roundabout on the existing highway, allowing the primary street to be constructed.

In order to mitigate noise from the M4, a six metre noise bund is also being built, providing a soft landscaped boundary to the south of the site. 

Where areas did need to be cleared, the timber has been reused in other parts of the site to create a ‘hibernacula’ where local wildlife can take shelter. The site included an existing area of hedgerow which held a number of distinctive trees; the ‘short-lived’ poplar trees present have been felled, but this has “opened up the hedgerow to allow the feature oaks space to grow and include a path through this space now known as Wichel Wood,”
says Pavely.

“Where tree stumps can remain they have been cut to create opportunities for bat roosts. Thousands of trees have also been planted to mitigate those lost both in the landscaped areas surrounding the site and in the form of street trees.”


When it came to the homes themselves, according to Pavely the strategic planning framework for the site was laid down at the outline planning and design coding stage, where a few “key challenges” were reported. These related to the site’s relationship with the existing primary infrastructure, and led to a restriction on the number and location of access points into the site.

“This did however provide an opportunity,” says Pavely, with homes able to designed to be accessed from private drives set back from tree-lined highways.

He describes the architectural approach: “It needed to relate to the contemporary buff brick approach taken in the first phase, while also creating some distinction.” This has been achieved by subtle changes in brick detailing with the properties adjacent to the previous phase transitioning to red brick homes fronting the main street, and those alongside the canal. 

“The selection of bricks as well as recognising the importance of using quality materials was a key focus for the design team,” says Pavely.


Though brick has been a focus when it comes to the scheme’s exterior materiality, the homes are built with panelised timber frames – engineered in a controlled, offsite factory environment. They are then assembled onsite over two to four days by a specialist team.

The timber frames include flooring, roofing and walls, and are designed as a whole unit – engineered to be rigid and lightweight, as well as easy to assemble in any adverse weather conditions. 

According to a spokesperson from Barratt Developments, the process allows the team to build more efficiently, and to mitigate the current skills challenges facing the industry. They however note that the process does not affect the design and feel of its homes, with timber frames being “extremely versatile and stable, making it easy to accommodate our style of housing.” 

The internal designs of the properties therefore do not differ compared to its traditional masonry constructed homes, says Barratt, with the interiors allowing for spacious, family-friendly living. 

“Another advantage of timber frames,” said the spokesperson, “is that they are precisely manufactured using 3D Modelling and computer software; this leaves fewer margins for error and makes it easier to install for the on-site team.” 

“The modular building process of timber frames allows us to operate efficiently within a controlled manufacturing environment to reduce our waste, energy and material consumptions as it can be more easily monitored and controlled,” said Barratt Developments. 

“We continue to work with our suppliers to ensure that all of our timber is 100% certified for net zero deforestation, and we are achieving this by strengthening our procurement processes and validation checks.” In addition, the spokesperson says that Barratt is aiming to support its suppliers of small quantities of non-certified timber to find alternative supply routes.


Looking to the future, Barratt expects its use of modern methods of construction will continue to rise – aiming for 30% of all its output by 2025 – citing not just speed of delivery, but also its help in addressing the current skills and labour shortages facing the industry.

The spokesperson from Barratt Developments says the developer is “committed” to increasing the number of homes it builds offsite as part of its overall volume growth aspirations. This goal also aligns with its aim to be the “leading national sustainable housebuilder,” and “the only UK housebuilder to set science-based targets for reducing carbon emissions.” They aim to reduce direct carbon emissions from business operations by 29% by 2025, and indirect carbon emissions, including from its supply chain and homes once occupied, by 11% before 2030. The developer is also “committed to reducing the intensity of our construction waste by 20%.” The developer is also “committed to reducing the intensity of our construction waste by 20%.”

According to Pavely, WichelStowe LLP will also seek carbon neutrality, in particular ensuring new home design is net zero carbon from 2030, something which MMC forms a key element of. “New technologies are being included as each new phase of development proceeds – one example of this is that electric car chargers are now provided as standard for every home.”


Back in the present, already the JV is seeing the results of its success, claiming to be “overwhelmed by the level of interest” in Wichel Fields, and “the thriving new community that’s already evident.” 

According to local reports, since sites began work in 2019, the area has received significant investment in its local economy, with the project already having supported around 25 local businesses with employment to the value of £60m, creating 564 jobs, two apprentices, as well as investment in the local community schools, restaurants and facilities. 

The spokesperson told Housebuilder and Developer that the show homes’ launch was a success, and there was a “high turnout at our opening weekend.” 

“We have had a real mix of interest from first time buyers, locals, family starters and second steppers.” 

Barratt concludes: “Sales are really positive, and we are looking forward to welcoming our first residents into their new homes towards the end of this year.”