CIVIC chiefs have officially opened Winchester’s latest affordable housing scheme in the city centre.

Victoria Court, a block of 18 one and two-bedroom flats off Victoria Road, aims to attract tenants wishing to downsize and help free up under-occupied family accommodation on estates such as Stanmore and Winnall.

The Mayor of Winchester Cllr Frank Pearson and council leader and portfolio holder for housing Cllr Caroline Horrill, cut the ribbon at a small ceremony.

Guests then enjoyed tea and cake with tenants, councillors and council officers in the communal courtyard garden at the rear of the development.

Cllr Horrill said: “Victoria Court aims to encourage downsizers to move to the scheme in order to free up larger family accommodation for people waiting on the council housing register.

“We are really proud to be adding yet more properties to our housing portfolio ensuring that the residents of the district have choices about their home.”

One of those resident, Andrew Gray, has moved into a flat with special adaptations to help with his mobility problems. He said: “Being here is a different world completely and health-wise I do feel better.”

The flats stand on the site of Victoria House, a former block of sheltered housing units, making good use of council assets.

The first tenants moved into Victoria Court in December 2018 with the remainder of the rented flats becoming occupied in January and February 2019.

As previously reported, the scheme had been due to open in June last year, before contractors Drew Construction went into administration, causing delays.

The city council has long had a policy of building new council homes stretching back to former leader George Beckett and carried on by later leaders but the scale of ambition has increased in recent months.

Cllr Horrill recently announced that it wants to build 1,000 new homes by 2021. it has built more than 150 since starting its New Homes Programme in 2012, including Chesil Lodge Extra Care scheme of 52 homes on Chesil Street.

Other developments include Bailey Close and New Queens Gate, Stanmore; Hillier Way, Abbotts Barton; Symonds Close, Weeke; Ashburton Road, Alresford; Station Close, Itchen Abbas and Bourne Close, Otterbourne.