THE site of Winchester's first new council houses since the 1980s has been officially opened.

Housing chiefs, volunteer groups and residents were in Micheldever to mark the occasion last Friday. The development is the work of the Winchester Housing Trust, whose aim is to increase affordable housing for local people throughout the district.

The trust's chief executive, Leanne Smith, said: “It takes a lot to get something like this off the ground in this economic climate. We've done it through tenacity and knocking on every door.”

Five of the 15 units have been earmarked for ownership by the city council, who will rent them to local families as part of their new homes delivery programme.

In a statement, a spokesman for the trust said: “These houses will be the first new council houses to be built since the 1980s and will be a vital asset to local people currently on the housing register.”

Ian Tait, the city's portfolio holder for new homes delivery, said: “There's been tremendous support for this and the sooner we can get it started and people can start living in it, the better.

“There was a little bit of objection but I think the parish council has been sterling in highlighting the benefits to the community,” he said.

The site opening, just behind Dever Close, was attended by around 50 people, including Winchester and Chandler's Ford MP Steve Brine.

Mr Brine said: “It's a viable, affordable community development in one of the most beautiful villages in Hampshire. I for one cannot wait to see it finished.”

Also in attendance was Mr Brian Barron, the trust's former chief executive. In honour of the 20 years Mr Barron spent working on affordable housing in the district, the new development is to be named Barron's Close.

Mr Barron said: “It's very surprising and I certainly didn't anticipate it. But yes, it's an honour.”

The homes will only be made available to those with a local connection and it is hoped the development will be completed by December 2013.

The Hampshire Chronicle reported last year that 42 families with links to Micheldever had applied for housing in the village.

Micheldever Parish Council backed the proposals but concerns were raised at the time by Winchester tenants group, Tact, whose spokesman Alan Rickman said the council might be able to build housing itself in the future, and might regret selling such sites.