PLANS have been revealed for major investment in residential property to protect key services across the New Forest.

The scheme was approved by New Forest District Council’s cabinet.

It will see an initial £10m investment by the authority to purchase homes and become a private sector landlord as well as construct new ones.

The council would then set up a company that would buy, build, hold and manage the properties to bring in extra cash to help fund council services.

Councillor Jeremy Heron, New Forest District Council’s portfolio holder for finance, corporate services and improvement, said the authority has to look at new ways of bolstering its finances.

He said: “The face of local government is changing and we look to innovative methods of bridging the funding gap whilst being mindful that we continue with our policy of being prudent when investing.

“By a carefully considered investment in residential property, we will be able to generate income to support the delivery of council services as well as deliver much needed greater diversity in housing.”

Councillor Heron added that investment of this kind had proved a successful way to fund services for many other councils.

He said: “Residential property represents a good investment for the council just now because the New Forest has a significant housing shortage and a growing population.

“Demand for housing in the district continues to increase.”

However, the scheme called the Draft Residential Property Asset Investment is separate to the council’s housing strategy.

Councillor Heron added that the authority remains committed to providing council housing.

He said that council was still encouraging developers to build affordable homes and insisted that the investment was not a change of direction.