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Princes William and Harry visit DIY SOS street in Manchester UK

DIY SOS: The Big Build: Trailer - BBC One

Princes William and Harry help veterans in DIY SOS

Princes Harry and William have visited the BBC's DIY SOS team as it works to turn a derelict Manchester street into housing for veterans.

A first of its kind partnership, the project is bringing together Manchester City Council, the BBC’s DIY SOS Big Build project, charities Walking With The Wounded and Haig Housing, plus Adactus Housing Groups.

The project will see several empty properties on Canada Street, Newton Heath, transformed into liveable homes for ex-service personnel.

Both Royal brothers joined the show's builders and hundreds of volunteers to help with the scheme's final stages.

Eight buildings are to be renovated and 62 house facades will be updated.

'Well played'

A support centre will be created, run by the Walking with the Wounded charity and the Royal British Legion.

The centre aims to help ex-servicemen and women with retraining and on-site support for those with mental or physical injuries.

DIY SOS's builders have described it as their "most ambitious" project to date.

Prince William showed off his artistic flair as he painted a kitchen, whilst Prince Harry was tasked with laying garden paving stones.

Resident John Wilkinson, 58, said the Royal visit was "brilliant" but fears he may be left single after his wife's meeting with Prince Harry.

He said: "They were gentlemen. They were flirting with Margaret more than anyone else. She was well chuffed with Harry. I think she is going to leave me."

The DIY project prevented his home in Canada Street, where he has lived for 28 years, from being demolished, he added.

He said: "Hopefully this is the catalyst across the country to do something for all our soldiers and families. There is no reason for our soldiers to be living on the streets, they can come and form a nice community here."

Paul Murphy, 47, who served with the Second Battalion Royal Irish Rangers and in the Falklands, said he would not be washing his hands after shaking Prince William's hand twice, adding the visit was "well played".

More about this amazing project

 Nick Knowles, the BBC DIY SOS presenter, said: “DIY SOS are coming to Manchester to take on the biggest build we’ve ever attempted. The team, and an army of contractors, are doing - up an entire street for veterans.  We’re taking derelict houses and bringing them back into use and regenerating an inner city area.” 

The project will provide disabled access and disabled parking. It will also introduce planting, will facelift 62 properties and will refurbish eight of 25 empty homes. 

As part of a second phase, the remaining 17 empty properties will be refurbished by the charity Haig Housing. Completed properties will offer the opportunity for veterans to get on the housing ladder with options including shared equity, discount purchase and rent to buy.  

The refurbishments will also create three larger adapted residential homes for veterans and their families, as well as one standard size property and a veteran walk-in support and advice centre - all by the end of September.

The aim is to create a veterans housing community within the existing community. The advice centre will have a private space for therapy and counselling – run by Walking With The Wounded – and will provide a space for the community. Training and employment opportunities are also being developed for veterans and existing residents.

Councillor Bernard Priest, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Through standard housing routes, veterans often have difficulty finding suitable accommodation – especially if they require adapted housing – as well as access to support networks and training opportunities. 

“Manchester City Council is committed to supporting veteran integration back into communities via the Veteran Covenant and we hope this project offers the full range of support services veterans need, while feeding into the wider regeneration ambitions for east Manchester.”

A huge amount of support has already been volunteered by major contractors, including: 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; and Keepmoat.

In addition, many suppliers, utilities and smaller specialist companies have come forward to help on this biggest ever DIY SOS project.

However, the project is still seeking supply and labour contributions from the construction industry, and to develop a legacy on-going veteran training and employment opportunities are sought from employers.

Completed properties will offer opportunities for veterans to get on the housing ladder with options including shared equity, discount purchase and rent to buy.

Nick Knowles, the BBC DIY SOS presenter, 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." 

Cllr Bernard Priest, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "This is an incredible project that will help improve the lives of veterans in Manchester. As the project begins, I would like to thank all of the contractors and suppliers who have volunteered their time, expertise and manpower to make the new community a reality."

Edward Parker, CEO and Co-founder of Walking With The Wounded, said: "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."

James Richardson, CEO of Haig Housing, said "We are delighted that so many organisations have been inspired by this project and are grateful for the many offers of help and support. This first phase with the BBC DIY SOS Big Build is an extraordinary project delivering bespoke homes for Veterans in housing need. In the second phase, when this charity will be refurbishing another 19 homes, we hope to create a Veterans’ Village and vibrant community. We are delighted to be working with Manchester City Council, the BBC, Walking with the Wounded and all of the very generous firms and businesses that have made this possible."

Follow the conversation: #DIYSOSVeterans.

If you're interested or to find out more, please contact the BBC direct on 01179 742173 or

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