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Date published: 17 December 2020

The aim of the scheme, which is a collaboration between veterans’ charity Alabaré Community Self Build (Veterans) scheme and Stonewater, was to enable a group of veterans to work alongside local contractor J Harper & Son (Leominster) Ltd to gain valuable, transferrable skills that they can bring to the workplace.

In addition to increasing their employment opportunities, each veteran involved has also been provided with a fantastic, secure new home for themselves and their families to rent.

Despite multiple delays caused by the pandemic, local construction company J Harper & Son (Leominster) Ltd has pulled out all the stops, and with the help of the veterans, has managed to finish the homes at Noden’s Mews on Waterworks Lane so that they are ready to move in today (17 December).

Dwain, one of the veteran self-builders, said:

“This scheme has changed my life. Only last year I was sleeping rough with no hope and my health suffered. Now I have my self-esteem back and I am going to have a home I can bring my children to, and celebrate Christmas together. I have also gained qualifications and work experience that will help me get a new job and support me and my family. It’s been fantastic and thank you all.”

Matthew Crucefix, Director of Development (South and West) at Stonewater, explains more:

“The close partnership work between us at Stonewater, Herefordshire Council and Alabare has been the key to success for this project. This scheme highlights how local organisations, councils and charities can work in partnership to make a difference together and provide much-needed affordable homes for those who need them the most.

“This has been an incredibly rewarding project for each of the veterans involved and we’re delighted to be handing the keys over to our new residents at Noden’s Mews in time for them to celebrate Christmas with their families.”

Ken Hames, Chief Operating Officer of Alabaré’s Community Self Build (Veterans) scheme describes how veterans have benefitted from being able to build their own homes.

“Self Build has two aspects to it. The obvious primary outcome is a number of dwellings for veterans in housing need. But more importantly, the veteran self-builder rebuilds their life by building their home. The site itself becomes a platform for recovery and transformation, leading to work and independent living.”

Antony Rees, Managing Director of The Harper Group of Companies, said: “We are extremely proud to have worked in partnership with Alabaré and Stonewater on this prestigious local project. It has been great to watch the veterans gain valuable experience within the construction industry. Even with the construction now complete, the homes will remain a focus of all the hard work put into building the homes for veterans, not only now but for the future.”

Councillor Barry Durkin, Herefordshire Council, (Chairman of Herefordshire Armed Forces Covenant Partnership) said:

“We are delighted that six veterans have received their keys and will be moving into their new homes in time for Christmas. We have worked with our partner, Stonewater, throughout this self-build project and as a result this brownfield site scheme has produced new, much needed high quality affordable housing. It is pleasing that our veterans who worked on the site have been able to gain valuable experience and to learn new skills which are recognised within the construction industry.”

Veterans Self Build evolved about 10 years ago out of a wider programme of Community Self Build schemes* and has a long and successful track record in positively influencing communities where there is a history of social exclusion, and where regeneration and innovation are critical pathways to stability and future growth. The veterans project was initiated to help forge a permanent solution to veteran homelessness and unemployment.

The Leominster scheme is being built on land previously occupied by 1970s-built maisonettes, and an adjacent piece of unused land. The project has redeveloped and reinvigorated the area with modern, attractive, and affordable housing for individuals, couples and families, with community outdoor space.