Wiltshire Council has announced plans to plough £40million into building new affordable homes, with the emphasis on helping the elderly.

Its housing board agreed on Monday to spend £40m building new houses and bungalows in rural areas, as well as to invest in refurbishing the county’s current housing stock.

The six-year project, which has been described as phase one of a long-term plan, will be funded by rental income from the council’s current housing stock and topped up with various government grants.

Coun Keith Humphries, cabinet member for housing, said: “Hopefully this will be an on-going programme.

“Generally the funds will be from revenue from rents, which builds up, and then we use that money to replace existing stock. There are also one or two other grants we can apply for and others in the future as well.

“Part of the programme is to look at building houses for older people in rural areas, to ensure as people get older they can stay in their local community.

"This may also free up larger houses where people may want to move into smaller dwellings.”

The council has a stock of 4,500 homes, largely in the Salisbury area, but most local authority homes were passed to housing associations to manage by the then district councils in the early 2000s.

Wiltshire Council will work with town and parish councils to determine where homes will be built, and which communities could benefit from homes for older people or young families.

Coun Humphries said: “Bungalows are part of the whole project, but there will be houses as well.

“You could come up with a standardised design across the county, which could be modified to fit the local environment, and that would save even more money.”

Coun Richard Clewer, portfolio holder for housing, said: “This is excellent news for Wiltshire as there is significant demand for affordable housing here.

“Our next step is to work with town and parish councils so we can establish what they need in terms of housing, to make sure their communities continue to be vibrant and sustainable."