Winchester affordable housing scheme reaches major milestone

One of the district’s largest affordable housing schemes has reached a key milestone - a ‘topping out’ ceremony at Chesil Lodge, the new Extra Care scheme for older people in Winchester.

Cllr Caroline Horrill, Leader of the City Council and Portfolio Holder for Housing, was joined by Graham Allen, Hampshire County Council's Director of Adults’ Health and Care, and Mr Peter Harris, for the event on Friday 10 March.

Extra-care housing consists of groups of individual houses or flats with communal facilities that allow residents to retain independence whilst having access to 24-hour care. The majority of the flats in Chesil Lodge will be for rent from the City Council with some shared ownership and open market flats also available.

At the same time, Winchester City Council is calling on the Government to allow it to build more affordable housing. Cllr Horrill has written to Gavin Barwell MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, urging him to lift the cap on development of affordable housing for councils such as Winchester with a proven track record of successful delivery.

Cllr Horrill said:

From a standing start in 2012, we have already built 100 new homes, have a further 150 under construction and have a number of schemes subject to planning approval. Chesil Lodge, which is due to open later this year, is an excellent example of what we can do.

Councillor Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care, added:

We are delighted to be working with Winchester City Council on the Chesil Lodge project which is seeing the development of much needed accommodation for older people in the city. As part of the project, the County Council is investing £3 million for the commissioning of care for people living in the development which will provide 52 flats and communal facilities, as well as a day care facility, which will be managed on site by Hampshire County Council.

We know that most people would prefer to continue to live independently in a home of their own, rather than enter residential care. Our investment in Chesil Lodge forms part of a wide programme of investment of up to £45 million over a decade, in the development of Extra Care schemes across Hampshire.

Winchester City Council plans to double the number of homes it is building in the next three years and has already secured grant towards these. With over 200 Council homes delivered or under construction since its programme began, the City Council is now determined to build a further 300 homes by 2020.

Cllr Horrill continued:

We have ambitious future plans but these are constrained by the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) cap. Our Council Strategy clearly states our commitment to deliver more homes quickly and to ensure we build more than we sell through right to buy or higher value sales. I am asking Ministers to help us deliver this ambition.

Cllr Horrill suggests changes to the Minister including:

• Lifting the HRA cap for councils that have a successful track record of development
• Sharing un-used ‘headroom’ from councils that are not developing affordable housing
• Additional rounds of Local Growth Fund schemes
• Specific funds targeted at straightforward council housing development
• Diverting a proportion of ‘accelerated construction’ funding to provide additional headroom to councils developing affordable housing

Cllr Horrill added:

With over 2,000 households on the Council’s waiting list, we simply cannot build affordable homes quickly enough. With prices so high in this area, younger residents have little prospect of owning their home.

I welcome announcements from the Government regarding house-building, which support the Council’s aspiration to do all we can to help those residents in the district struggling to afford housing.

Winchester has an up-to-date Local Plan which is ready to be adopted so we are in a strong position to deliver on this ambition. We are planning for housing that meets the needs of everyone in our district.