CIVIC chiefs say they are making "real progress" towards tackling the shortage of affordable homes in the New Forest.

Jill Cleary, the district council's cabinet member for housing, has spoken out after visiting 35 flats which have been built at Blackwater Drive in Totton.

The £4m project, which comprises Brook Court and Bartley Court, is the largest new build the authority has completed in the past 25 years.

Another 20 new council homes are nearing completion on a site in nearby Calmore Drive.

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Cllr Cleary said: "This is a major step towards achieving our target to deliver at least 600 new council-built affordable homes by 2026."

The Blackwater Drive scheme is made up of nine two-bedroom and 26 one-bedroom properties.

Tenants include Irene and Harold Cooper, who showed Cllr Cleary around the one-bedroom flat they moved into a month ago with their dog Bella.

Mrs Cooper said: "We have really settled in, the neighbours are lovely. We are thrilled to bits with our new home."

After visiting the development Cllr Cleary and fellow members of the authority went to look at the £2.8m Calmore Drive scheme, which is being built on the former site of the Stocklands care home. The scheme includes ten one-bedroom flats and five three-bedroom houses.

Cllr Cleary said: "These two schemes are providing urgently needed homes for rent.

"As part of our housing strategy we have plans to deliver shared-ownership properties in the future, making provision for those who would like to buy a property but can’t afford to do so.

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“Providing more affordable homes for local people is one of this council’s key priorities.

"The completion of the 35 new council homes at Brook and Bartley Court, as well as the 20 on the Stocklands site, marks an acceleration in our council house building programme.

"We are now making real progress towards addressing the district’s affordable housing shortage by providing a range of housing options that are affordable and sustainable.

“In addition to the 55 homes on these two sites we have provided a further 55 council homes since 2017 as well as buying properties to replace those lost through Right to Buy.

"We are working with developers and housing associations to ensure that good quality affordable housing is provided in a range of tenures."

Brook Court and Bartley Court have been built next to two other council blocks, Compton House and Sarum House.

The cost is being met with the help of an £800,000 grant awarded by Homes England.