A NEW £13m development of more than 100 affordable homes has been officially opened in Southampton .

The completed ten-storey development on the former Gantry theatre site behind the Mayflower theatre, has brought 115 new affordable flats to the city centre.

A special performance at the Mayflower was staged to celebrate the opening of the new homes, spread over three blocks of apartments, named Gantry Court and Empire View. Housing association First Wessex secured an investment of about £6m from the Homes and Community Agency to transform the disused site of the former Gantry theatre in a fiveyear building project. First Wessex put £7m towards the scheme.

The rear of the Mayflower was also improved as part of the project, meaning larger scale theatrical productions are now be able to perform there.

The building has been linked to Southampton’s district heating network, which will reduce energy costs for residents.

Stuart Munro, managing director of Drew Smith, which carried out the construction work, said: “For the past five years this has been a successful collaborative project and a fantastic addition for the city of Southampton.

“We are proud that the vast majority of the project was constructed with local labour in tough economic times.”

Paul Jenks, vice-chairman of the First Wessex board, said: “This development demonstrates our continued commitment to provide high quality sustainable homes which contribute to the regeneration of Southampton.”

HCA area manager Bruce Voss said: “Our investment has played a significant role in unlocking this major development, providing construction jobs while it was being built and high quality affordable homes in the heart of the city.

“We have also supported this project with funding to get the site ‘plumbed in’ to the cutting edge geothermal heat network in Southampton, which should provide lasting benefits for residents and the environment . It's great news for the city and the local community that this important development is complete.”

Southampton City Council housing boss Councillor Warwick Payne said: “This scheme shows the importance of partners working close together.

“First Wessex, the Homes and Communities Agency, Drew Smith and the council have joined forces to bring 115 much-needed affordable homes to the city, as well as providing excellent employment and training opportunities for local people.

“I’m pleased that the homes have also been able to benefit from the city’s district heating system, providing green energy efficient homes.”