Work is under way at last, on at least the northern part of the Terry’s chocolate factory site in York. STEPHEN LEWIS went along to meet the architect.

IF you've been along Campleshon Road recently and have taken a look through the gates towards the Terry's chocolate factory, you'll have noticed that work is at last well and truly under way.

Earth movers have been levelling the ground where old, tin-roofed warehouses and storage sheds used to stand, and concrete foundations are beginning to be laid.

By this time next year, hopes architect Richard Partington, many of the 29 flats and 57 three- and four-bed houses that make up Phase I of the development should be ready to move into.

In fact, you can probably expect things to happen even more quickly than that. The aim is to have "something for everybody to look at" by the time the Tour de France comes to town at the start of July.

That may sound optimistic – especially given the history of delays on redeveloping the site since the old Terry's factory closed its doors in 2005.

But one of the apartment blocks which will stand near the entrance to the site is timber-framed, says Mr Partington. "So that allows you to go really quickly."

Before you get too excited, it is only the northern part of the site – the part owned by David Wilson Homes, which used to be covered in those old, tin-roofed sheds – on which work has started.

Henry Boot owns the southern part of the site, including the listed factory buildings and clock tower. The Sheffield-based firm has reportedly drawn up plans to turn the iconic factory building into 157 flats, and is said to want to convert the two-storey building on Bishopthorpe Road into a hotel. Work on its part of the site is not expected to begin until the autumn, however.

Nevertheless, with work on the David Wilson Homes part of the site now under way, York should be getting some badly-needed new housing reasonably soon.

This part of the site is to be developed in two phases. And once it is complete – no date has been given yet even for work to start on Phase II – York will have a total of more than 300 new homes, 20 per cent of them 'affordable'.

Not everyone is necessarily ecstatic about that. More than 800 local people recently signed a petition calling for a border of trees which lines the edge of the site along Bishopthorpe Road and Campleshon Road to be protected.

Questioned on a recent site visit, Mr Partington, whose company Richards Partington Associates has been appointed by David Wilson to design the scheme, insisted as many trees as possible would be saved: including all those with a tree preservation order on them.

"Those (trees) that have gone so far are to make access/site lines work and to allow drainage connections," he said. "We agree with residents that the trees are one of the site's essential features and we will be trying to keep as many as we can on Phase 2 - we intend to keep many more than the outline consent, which envisaged substantial areas on the north east corner being removed."

You may or may not be reassured by that. Certainly, the fact that 800 people signed a petition shows how concerned they are - and how closely the redevelopment of this key site will be watched.

Most people, however, will probably just be glad that at last this site which has lain derelict for so long is being put to use.

Council leader James Alexander certainly is. When Henry Boot and David Wilson announced last year that they had between them bought the 27-acre Terry's site, he hailed it as the start of a 'bright new future for the Chocolate Works'.

"The council is committed to providing new homes and helping businesses thrive," he said. "The Chocolate Works is a central platform in that programme. .. York is open for business and this is a clear demonstration of that."

So what kind of housing development are we going to get on this northern, David Wilson Homes part of the site once both phases are finished?

One of the key features will be a broad, tree-lined avenue leading up to the factory building, Mr Partington said.

There will be a second tree-lined boulevard running parallel to it, a main perimeter road running around the edge of the development, and a grid of smaller streets laid out at right angles to each other.

There will be none of the looping, curving street plans that are so typical of many modern housing developments: this will be more in keeping with York's traditional pattern of straight terraced streets, Mr Partington said.

A number of low (three- and four-storey, in Phase 1 at least) apartment blocks will be clustered along the Campleson Road and Bishopthorpe Road edges of the development, with a pattern of terraced houses and larger, detached corner houses, all with their own small back gardens, set out on a grid of streets grouped around a small urban square on the inner part of the site.

All the houses and flats will be light, spacious and generously proportioned, Mr Partington said. The houses will be built of a mixture of red/ pink brick, and a lighter-coloured brick similar to that found in Scarcroft Road, which will contrast with the red brick of the factory buildings. The Terry's clock tower will be visible from everywhere on the development. And, like the homes at Derwenthorpe which Richards Partington also designed, the Chocolate Works homes will all be energy-efficient, with good insulation and high-performance double glazing.

There will be heating systems. "But they will need very little heating," Mr Partington said.

So what kind of price might the flats and houses go for when they do come on the market?

"Details of the price range will be released in July so it isn’t possible to give you even a rough figure at this stage," a spokesman for David Wilson Homes said.

Watch this space.