Veterans self-build project getting underway

Representatives from Plymouth City Council, the Community Self-Build Agency, DCH, the Homes and Communities Agency, and Help for Heroes at the Veteran's Self-Build launch.

Representatives from Plymouth City Council, the Community Self-Build Agency, DCH, the Homes and Communities Agency, and Help for Heroes at the Veteran’s Self-Build launch.

A project to help veterans build their own homes in Plymouth is moving another step forward.

Land for up to 24 affordable homes on the former St George’s Day Centre at George Place, Millbay, is being transferred from Plymouth City Council to DCH and work is due to start on site next month with Interserve, the contractor. Included in the scheme will be at least 12 custom build homes for ex-service personnel, who will train and build these homes themselves.

The project is a partnership between DCH, Community Self Build Agency and Plymouth City Council. Funding of £898,200 has been secured from the Homes and Communities Agency and Plymouth City Council will be providing £250,000 capital funding.

Local armed forces charities were approached to help involve any vulnerable ex-service personnel in Plymouth who need housing and are interested in training and skills to build their own homes and gain future employment.

Stella Clarke, Chair of the Community Self Build Agency, said: “The aim of the project is to provide homes for veterans and also help overcome some of the barriers they may face when trying to access housing and employment, and make it easier for them to integrate back into the local community.

“We’ve done two similar schemes in Bristol and it can be really hard for people leaving the armed forces to get back into normal, everyday life, especially as many are young when they join the army. Some people really struggle, and obviously some have very bad injuries, while many will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Plans show what the new self-build homes could look like.

Plans show what the new self-build homes could look like.

Under the two previous schemes in Bristol, 22 people helped to build the homes in which they now live, and during the construction, the Community Self Build Agency also provided employment skills, and assisted with addiction and relationship problems. Of those who took part in the first scheme, all are now working and many have re-engaged with family members, some of whom had lost contact for many years. With the second scheme completed at the end of December, already some of the self-builders are now in employment and reconnected with their families.

Stella added: “Improvements in job prospects and accommodation were not the only positive outcomes to be achieved. The life skills learnt have had a truly lasting impact.  It is difficult to put into words the huge impact that this project has on the lives of those involved who go from hopelessness to empowerment with self-esteem and self-confidence over the life of their project.”

The wider benefits of what has been so far achieved are currently being considered in a study by the University of the West of England (Partly funded by the charity Forces in Mind Trust). Their report will be completed in the near future.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Cooperatives and Housing for Plymouth City Council, said: “This is a fantastic project and we are absolutely delighted that we are now moving onto the next phase. It is complex and has taken a lot of work and negotiations behind the scenes between all the different agencies to get to this stage but we are confident now that funding has been secured and the contractor has been appointed that the project will now be able to move forward swiftly.

“We are providing local homes for local residents, and helping local veterans. We have such strong military links in the city as well as a need for more affordable housing, and this scheme helps address both needs.

“It’s really important that we do all we can to help integrate ex-service personnel back into the community, and help equip them with the skills to adjust back to civilian life, something we as a Council are working very proactively to do through the Armed Forces Community Covenant. There are 277 households in Plymouth with an armed forces background registered for one bedroom accommodation on Plymouth’s housing register, and 163 have a priority housing need.”

In addition to the homes for ex-servicemen there will also be six homes for people with learning disabilities.

Councillor Ian Tuffin, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “This is a great project for veterans and I am delighted that some of the housing will be for people with learning disabilities as this will give them a new home and a sense of independence, as well as feeling part of the community.”

Gareth Jones Development Director for Affordable Housing at DCH said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on such a flagship scheme for Plymouth, supporting the further regeneration of Plymouth. The Nelson project will provide much needed housing for a wide range of people and will also offer something unique and special, where during the construction period ex-service personnel will have the opportunity to train and build on the scheme supported by the Community Self Build Association. We are proud to be instrumental in bringing forward high quality build and a design which focuses on the wellbeing of residents making it an exemplar project.”