WORK is underway to transform a former Army barracks into the UK’s first housing and enterprise project for Service veterans.

The multi-million pound development will see the former Erskine Barracks, near Salisbury turned into a campus with homes and an innovative enterprise hub.

The unique scheme is the creation of regeneration and development specialists Our Enterprise, which is working alongside housebuilder Redrow Homes. It will be the first time in the UK that a development has been built to address the needs of veterans by supporting them into independent living in an integrated community.

Forty-four homes will be built for former Service personnel to rent for between six and 24 months and during that time they’ll receive business and skills training at the enterprise hub.

Employment and education opportunities

The project will provide a range of jobs for veterans who will be running the community café on site and their own grounds maintenance enterprise. Volunteering, training and education opportunities will also be on offer to support users’ move to independence.

The project is geared towards helping veterans to be self-reliant in a culture of enterprise rather than welfare.

Service veterans living and working in the area have been quick to support the project, with many offering to mentor those living on the campus once the build is complete.

Greg Power, served in 1st Battalion, The Coldstream Guards and saw active service in the Gulf, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, said: “The Our Wilton project is so important for those leaving the Army. It allows like-minded people to connect and discuss what they have been through without fear of judgement.

“When I left the military, I found it difficult to speak about what I had experienced because there were no facilities like this available at that time. This made me feel isolated and at times alone.

“The Wilton Campus will help returning veterans by providing them with the skills needed to adjust to civilian life. To be involved with the Wilton project will allow me to mentor veterans through their readjustment process and teach them skills to help them in the future.”

Community focus

The project has received considerable support, including a £3.5 million grant from the Libor Fund and £500,000 from the Armed Forces Covenant, with the first veterans due to move in next year.

Matthew Bell, CEO of Our Enterprise, said: “We all owe a huge debt to our Forces and a project like this is long overdue. These men and women risk their lives for our safety, yet when they return home they are often faced with huge difficulties. This project is about supporting them on their return and helping them to make the transition into civilian life in a positive way.

“I believe we have come up with a scheme which will reinvigorate this community and transform many lives for the better. Hopefully it will be a blue print for future developments across the UK and help open doors for our returning Service personnel.”

Proud to be involved

Jon Fletcher, regional managing director for Redrow Homes Southern Counties, said: “This is the first time we’ve worked on a project of this kind and it’s great to see construction finally get underway.

“We are thrilled and extremely honoured to be working closely with Our Enterprise to provide much needed homes and facilities for our local veterans. The facilities will also be open for use by Redrow residents and the wider Wilton community.

“As a result we’re keen to keep championing and raising awareness of the project and all of the many benefits it’s going to bring to the area.”

To find out more, visit http://www.ourwilton.org/veterans-hub/

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