A MAJOR expansion of housing for the elderly in Winchester city centre has been approved.

St John’s Winchester has secured planning permission for new accommodation in the heart of the city.

City councillors on the planning committee approved 16 new almshouses on Chesil Street on the back of a positive recommendation from planning officers.

Permission for an additional 14 almshouses on the charity’s Colebrook Street site is outstanding, but it hopes it will be passed under delegated powers in the New Year.

Both schemes have been in the pipeline for years and subject to detailed negotiations with planning officers.

St John's says the approval represents a vital step in its strategy to sustain a viable and vibrant community of older people living independently and affordably, in accommodation that complies with the strictest of modern standards.

Occupiers of these new units will be able to benefit from its existing facilities and support.

The development of these new units complements St John’s efforts to revamp 20 of its existing Southside almshouses. Twelve of the twenty residences have already been remodelled to date as part of this reformation programme, adopted in 2016.

Provided that planning is granted for the Colebrook Street site, construction of the new housing is expected to commence in late summer/early autumn of 2019, with a completion date anticipated in the first half of 2021.

Martin Lowry, St John's chairman said: “It has taken us some time to secure this permission, but we want to thank the officers involved and the committee for their rigorous approach. We hope to work with the city council in future on opportunities that will benefit older people living in the city. Our new wellbeing initiative, St John’s Hand in Hand, and our development projects illustrate our strong commitment to bettering the lives of older people living in the city.”

Chief Executive Clive Cook said: “St John’s has a long-standing history, and the new units will ensure we can continue to support older people in the community in a sustainable way. Our community thrives because of its good neighbourliness, friendship, the welfare support we provide and staff participation and commitment. The development will allow the St John’s almshouse community to endure and flourish within a modern setting.”

St Johns houses around 150 people in the The Broadway area and also a dementia unit at Moorside on Union Street.