Early works in preparation for the construction of 261 new homes and a commercial unit in Stevenage town centre are under way.

The development of the former Swingate House site is expected to take two years to complete.

As part of the preparatory works, contractor Gilbert-Ash is carrying out works including the removal of some of the debris on the site, in order to level out the ground to install the piling which will create the site foundations.

Material from the demolition – known as crush – will be reused as part of the foundation works.

The main construction works will begin later in the spring.

The site is being brought forward by construction company Mace, in partnership with Stevenage Borough Council,  as part of the wider £1bn town centre regeneration plans.

Councillor Richard Henry, leader of the council, said: "It is fantastic to see these works on the site.

"This scheme will help to diversify the uses within our town centre, encouraging spend and supporting our existing businesses and attracting new ones to benefit our local communities.

"This is a really exciting time for the town, as we continue to create a thriving town for people to live, work and visit."

The former Swingate House site forms part of the wider SG1 masterplan for Stevenage town centre, which in its entirety will deliver new homes, jobs, office and retail space, alongside new public spaces.

Kevin Cowin, director at Mace, said: "The commencement of works to enable the redevelopment of the Swingate House site is an exciting milestone in Stevenage town centre’s regeneration. Mace is proud to play a key role in delivering this with the council and our local partners."

Activity is taking place within the current hoarding line, and the council says there will be no impact to traffic using any of the surrounding roads.

Adrian Hawkins OBE, chair of the Stevenage Development Board, said: "We are very excited to see the works being undertaken on the former Swingate site, as these underline the commitment to developing a centre which will create vibrant new opportunities for the population of Stevenage.

"This work will be a catalyst to other phases that will not only benefit the town centre, but also offer much improved options for leisure, dining and work.

"Town centres across the UK are facing up to radical changes and we are proud that Stevenage is at the forefront of this transition, which will prove to be a very positive and dynamic change."

For more information on the wider £1bn Stevenage town regeneration plans, visit stevenage-even-better.com.