Homes Fit For Heroes

A former army barracks near Salisbury Plain is to be transformed into a unique housing and enterprise project for veterans.

The site of the former Erskine Barracks near the village of Wilton will be transformed into two new housing developments, Wilton Hill and Erskine Park, where families will live alongside veterans returning from conflict zones.

The unique development is the creation of regeneration and development specialists Our Enterprise and will be the first time in the UK that a major new housing development has been built with returning military personnel in mind.

The project will establish the first purpose built community based campus for service veterans with homes and an innovative enterprise hub.

The hub will offer training and help for veterans to launch their own businesses and will sit alongside facilities for up to 60 other businesses.

The project is geared towards helping service veterans to make the move back into civilian life in a way which enables them to be self-reliant in a culture of enterprise rather than welfare.

It will include at least 44 homes for veterans who will rent the units for a period of between six and 24 months while they receive business and skills training.  They then move on to make room for another veteran.

The site was a field base for the US Army during World War II and was named after British war hero General Sir George Erskine. It was a major military base for UK forces right up until 2010 when troops were relocated elsewhere.

The abandoned site became available for housing development but community leaders were keen for the area’s military heritage to be respected.

The Wilton Community Land Trust contacted Our Enterprise CEO Matthew Bell who listened to their concerns and agreed to help find a development partner who would tackle the project sympathetically.

Our Enterprise agreed to partner with Redrow Homes to buy the two sites and plans for 292 family properties and 44 one and two bedroom flats for veterans have now been approved by Wiltshire Council.

Work on the site has already begun and it is hoped the first veterans will be moving in around July 2017.

All former service personnel can be nominated for a flat with a committee made up of the Our Enterprise team, Wiltshire County Council and military charities deciding who is offered a home.

It is Our Enterprise’s first major project aimed at helping returning veterans.  CEO Matthew Bell said he was inspired to get involved after a chance meeting with a homeless veteran.

He said: “We all owe a huge debt to our forces and it’s fantastic to be able to give something back.

“These guys risk their lives for our safety, yet then they return home they are often faced with huge difficulties.

“I met a homeless guy in London who told me he was a veteran and showed me his service record. I was appalled that he had risked his life to serve his country and yet now faced life on the streets.

“When Wilton Community Land Trust came to me I immediately spotted an opportunity. The Erskine Barracks had been put up for sale and there were fears the site could be turned into a massive housing estate with little or no consideration about the area’s military heritage.

“I knew we had a unique opportunity to do something different. To create a development which would truly make a lasting difference.

“It needed to be a genuine business opportunity for the builder, while at the same time offering an incredible opportunity to our heroes returning from conflicts overseas.

“Within ten minutes of meeting the Redrow chief executive John Tutte, I knew we could make this work.

“Redrow agreed to meet the Wilton Community Land Trust and the two, with our support, had some long conversations which led to the plans we all then submitted.

“Between us we purchased the land and had the plans approved swiftly without the need for any additional costly and timely consultations.

“I believe we have come up with a plan which will reinvigorate this community and transform many lives for the better.”

Redrow, who are building 292 private homes within the two developments on the sites, have already started work with some homes complete and occupied.

The former military buildings have been demolished on the Our Enterprise part of the site which will include the veterans’ accommodation, enterprise hub, crèche and retail units. Construction is due to begin in Summer 2016 with a completion date set for July 2017.

Matthew Bell added: “Hopefully this development will set the blueprint for others and spark a revolution in the opportunities available to veterans returning from conflict zones.”

This article was also featured in:
Your Home – Army & You
Summer 2016

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