It’s The Great British Build Off this month as the DIY SOS team hit Manchester for their most ambitious project yet.
In A ground-breaking initiative, the first of its kind, BBC programme DIY SOS has teamed up with Manchester City Council, Adactus and Haig Housing this week to start work on a community for military veterans. The substantial project will ultimately see two entire Newton Heath streets refurbished, breathing new life into 62 inhabited properties and bringing 25 empty homes back into use. These will be adapted specifically for war heroes and their families, who can benefit from payment plans like discounted purchases, shared equity and rent-to-buy; plus an enhanced opportunity to reintegrate themselves back into society, something which many find difficult.
Improvements to New Street and Canada Street, largely neglected until now, will also include planting schemes plus disabled access for the many ex-servicemen who return with physical (and psychological) challenges as a result of their experiences. Volunteer contractors, including former Army Reservists (who have been retrained to work in the construction trade with the help of charity Walking With The Wounded), have now arrived on site for the initial stage; which will see eight empty homes converted, plus a walk-in advice centre for citizens and the general community – all by the end of this month.
Major companies across the spectrum to volunteer their support for the ‘Big Build’ include: lead contractor, Kier; supply chain lead, ISG; empty home refurbishment lead, Wates Living Space; street-scaping lead, Wilmott Dixon; architects Bernard Taylor Partnership; principal designer, Arcus Consulting; Mears; Rowlinsons; Keepmoat; and a smattering of smaller specialist firms.
CEO of Walking With The Wounded, Edward Parker, is now urging companies to provide employment and training opportunities to ensure a lasting legacy: “While the focus today is on the Big Build, it is the legacy which will remain that is ultimately the key to this. It means Walking With The Wounded and our partners will be in a stronger position to assist in finding the most vulnerable veterans employment here in Manchester and the North West, hence helping them achieve the independence and security we believe they deserve.”
Referring to the plethora of construction companies who have so far offered their support, DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles said: “We couldn’t have done this without the amazing support of all these trades. The enormous amount of help – in time, materials, labour and much more – is a tribute to our nation’s building industry”.