Anyone driving along the Leicester Road out of Market Harborough recently will have caught a glimpse of the town’s most significant building of the century so far.
It’s a modest-looking bridge, but it’s more than that – it’s a symbol of our popular town’s rapid expansion.
For the bridge across the Harborough arm of the Grand Union Canal will open up the big Airfield Farm development site.
And that site should eventually consist of up to 924 new homes, a local shopping centre, a health centre, a primary school, a canal marina with a hotel, a country park, sports fields and allotments.
And even that is just part of a 1,500 home “strategic development area”, which stretches from the top of Lubenham Hill right round to the B6047.
It’s a bridge to a future, where the Market Harborough population pushes up towards 30,000.
The bridge itself is nothing very unusual. Its parapets were cast in-situ; the beams were fabricated off-site and craned into place at the beginning of October, by up to 40 construction workers.
The deck, services, footpaths, safety barriers, surfaceing, street lighting and all signage will be fitted before the bridge is complete and ready to open in the new year.
Throughout, except for the day in which the beams were lifted into place, the canal beneath has been navigable, although the towpath has been closed to walkers.
But the bridge is just the beginning for the big Airfields Farm development.
All of the infrastructure works, which include the new junction onto the B6047, the new on-site spine road and the new country park will now follow.
They are being constructed by Breheny Civil Engineering on behalf of two housing developers – William Davis Homes and Taylor Wimpey.
The total investment in this infrastructure is more than £15 million.
The development’s consortium will then be investing over £150 million, as it constructs 900-plus new homes and funds further infrastructure and open space.
It will also make Section 106 contributions towards improved public transport access, improved cycle routes, libraries, and a new on-site primary school.
There will also be further contributions to off-site projects. These include money for secondary school provision, community facilities, the police and improvements to the canal’s towpath.
William Davis Homes are already at work, aiming to open a sales complex with show homes early in the spring of 2019.
Taylor Wimpey also plan to commence housing development in the New Year.
Interestingly, the site covers a 140-acre section of the former RAF Market Harborough airbase, an operational training unit airfield for Bomber Command during World War Two.
Builders working on the Airfield Farm development, will be given special training on what to do if they find an unexploded bomb.
The bang of a bomb is unlikely, but it’s fair to say that housebuilding in Harborough is a booming industry.
The truth is that developers have selected Market Harborough because it’s a handsome, self-contained town within commuting distance of London.
That’s why many of us like living here.
And as the bridge to the huge Airfield Farm development shows, we’ve got quite a way to grow yet.