A NEW era of council house building in Wiltshire is on the way.

The aim is to invest £70m across the county over the next eight years, targeted at families and older people.

And the search is on for suitable sites, particularly in villages.

There are 10,755 people officially counted as in need of social housing countywide, and the programme to meet some of this need has three elements.

To free up family sized properties in rural areas, £2m a year will be spent on building one and two-bedroom homes for older people, enabling them to downsize while remaining in their local community.

Wiltshire’s portfolio holder for social housing, Cllr Richard Clewer, says this will have the added benefit of enabling families to stay in the villages and contribute to their viability.

There will be an initial injection of £6m to get the ball rolling.

He added: “By approaching elderly people in social housing in a village, we can pretty much tailor developments to what they want.”

The council is also looking to provide more extra care-type accommodation for the elderly. This could be delivered through developments mixing publicly owned and private housing. Funding for part of this is being gathered from a variety of sources.

And Wiltshire has applied to the Homes and Communities Agency for £6m to add to £14m which will be available from the Housing Revenue Account in the near future.

This will be used to buy new-build homes from developers of estates, and will be targeted at enabling work to go ahead on stalled sites.

Cllr Clewer said: “Part of our aim is to spread council housing stock across the county. We are committed as a council to owning social housing.

“Our intention is to continue this programme into the longer term. We have a huge need for it.”

Cllr Clewer said that if people have potential ‘exception sites’ for social housing – that is, sites outside a village housing policy boundary where building would not normally be approved – that they are willing to put forward, they can submit them to their parish council to pass on to the council planning department.

Wiltshire Council's housing board met on Tuesday and agreed an initial six-year investment of £40m.