Wednesday 22 November marks ten years since Thamesdown Drive was officially opened; later that week, on 26 November Asda Walmart opened its doors at the North Swindon District Centre, to be followed by the other retail units and community facilities such as the library and youth centre.
In the months before the ribbon was cut on Thamesdown Drive to join the A419 to the M4 via West Swindon, builders had been busy preparing access roads and laying foundations for the first homes planned across the Haydon III development, to be marketed as Priory Vale – spread across three distinct areas, Haydon End, Oakhurst and Redhouse.
Within a few months the first people arrived in Redhouse. The development had actually started a year late after Swindon Friends of the Earth, following the 1997 election, managed to get the Labour government to force the consortium of builders to carry out a detailed environmental assessment for the area. It had been deemed unnecessary by the previous Conservative government when the Haydon III master plan was drawn up some five years earlier.
It’s remarkable how much has been built in ten years of rapid development. Most of the 5,500 houses planned for the area have been completed providing new homes for individuals and families, and developers are now hungrily looking at adding a further 1,700 houses to the north at Tadpole Farm.
Six primary, secondary and special schools have been built in Priory Vale, plus a brand new Nova Hreod School which serves the area.
Right, John Prothero, lead engineer for Nuttall, who built Thamesdown Drive. As a boy growing up in Haydon Wick, he used to play in the fields that were to become Priory Vale
However the glaring lack of shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, community hall, medical centre and a community hall at Redhouse Village Centre promised in marketing material put out by developers Crest is a sore point amongst residents.
Most of the sites at the centre have now been turned into housing and Crest are demanding a high price from any pub operator who wants to open there. However, Paul and Sheila Edwards, who own The Works Salon, the first business to arrive at Redhouse are delighted by their success. “I know there is still a lot to do here, but we’ve built a very positive relationship with our customers. The majority of people love living in Priory Vale, as we do. It’s matured very quickly; there’s a strong sense of belonging.
Before being elected MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson represented a Abbey Ward ward on Swindon Council and was involved with many of the decisions to do with the development. "When I was elected to the council in 2000 there were about 1,800 homes. By the time I came off the council in 2009 to concentrate on the parliamentary seat there were some 8,500.
"The new schools in Priory Vale are excellent, as is the pub at Taw Hill, the development of Mouldon Hill park is coming along and Thamesdown Drive is now a key arterial route through North Swindon.
"But there are major challenges ahead of us. Many of the new schools now have mobile classrooms and there is an ongoing quest for more places to cater for the baby boom. Chasing developers to finish off their sites is a constant issue for myself and local councillors, and due to the design of the area under a previous government, there is a problem associated with the density of housing in the area and the associated lack of car parking. It requires the community to cooperate and work out solutions to minimise aggravation.
"I agree that the lack of completion of Redhouse Village Centre and the lack of a pub is a frustration for all concerned, and I continue to work on this issue. Nevertheless Priory Vale is a desirable to place and I’m proud to represent the people living there."
Right, Asda Walmart staff take a break from preparing the store for the first shoppers on 26 November 2001
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