WINCHESTER City Council could sell off land to cover a £16m shortfall in its council house building programme.

The current cost is around £36m, £16m more than budgeted for in February, due to a council ‘over-programming’ strategy of listing more schemes than it can afford.

But officers believe £9m of that will be covered by capital grants and developers contributions, leaving £7m outstanding, which could be covered by selling off individual plots of land.

Speaking at a housing committee, Andrew Palmer, head of new homes delivery, said: “We always have the ability to sell small sites for one or two properties that are not economical for us to bring forward. It’s a way we can provide housing and generate capital. It’s not a major part of the programme, but a useful option.”

Mr Palmer said no such sites had been identified yet, but there were 10-15 “potential plots” officers were looking at.

He added there were financial controls which would stop schemes going ahead if there was not enough money.

The council has also dropped a scheme in Milland Road after residents would not agree to leave their homes.

It would have seen four homes demolished and 15 built and the-then housing portfolio holder Ian Tait said: “Milland Road was a proposal where we looked to negotiate with council tenants and one private owner to see whether we could deliver a scheme to provide housing for 50 people.

“We will not be pushing people out of their homes to develop these sites and that is a commitment I’m holding to.”

But he confirmed the council was still interested in the site and would redevelop it if the opportunity arose.

Several other schemes were dropped including The Park, Droxford; Hobbs Close, Bishop’s Sutton; and Fivefields Road, Highcliffe, because they were not considered viable.

Councillors also called for more shared ownership schemes where the council would team up with another housing association.

Cllr Tait said: “I have made it explicitly clear we are open for business and that they should come to us with ideas.

“I don’t have any hang ups if the housing is delivered through a registered provider or the council. An affordable home is an affordable home.”

Speaking after the meeting, Labour leader Chris Pines said: “I don’t know why there has not been a comprehensive review of brownfield sites. We have an opportunity to cheaply purchase them and develop them first.

“We are not looking at quick wins. We are spending hardly any money on attic conversions, side extensions or two-bedroom bungalows for the elderly to free up three-bed homes.”

He added: “Labour do not support evicting current tenants from their homes before we have looked at all the options.”

The updated programme will now go to cabinet and full council for final approval.

Meanwhile, the committee also approved construction of new homes in Bourne Close, Otterbourne, and Station Close, Itchen Abbas.

Contractors F E Chase and Sons will carry out both schemes, building three three-bed homes in Otterbourne, and five homes in Itchen Abbas, three three-bed and two two-bed.