The ancient capital of Wessex will have a modern image in five years. That’s the prediction of Sue van Leest, who is guiding the unique – and a first for the UK – community project at Wilton Hill, the site of the former Southern Command and UKLF HQ. It is expected to benefit the whole community of the town and bring jobs and training opportunities as well as economic boosts.

Redrow’s 292 housing development is only one part of a larger concept which includes 39 retirement living apartments, 44 flats for military veterans, with coffee shop and community space – ready by December 21 – ‘live work’ units and training and business incubation opportunities in an enterprise hub, to open mid-2019.

A nursery and care home are also planned. It will be tastefully landscaped to be an attractive gathering place for all ages and for the town.

“We are creating a mixed community as part of a regeneration process. The first phase of the £10million-plus project is due to open in January next year.”
It was not just another big housing development, she stressed. The project was formulated by sustainable development company Our Enterprise and Our Wilton Trust, which will manage the ‘exciting’ facility.

Contributions from the developers were part of their planning conditions. Other financial contributions came from the LIBOR fund, ABF, The Soldier’s Charity, the Armed Forces Covenant, Wiltshire Council’s South West Wilts Area Board, and the town council for fitting-out one of the flats. Other organisations have contributed towards the fit- out of the flats.

Wilton Community Land Trust is supporting the project as a partner, helping with the Men’s Shed initiative, and managing the enterprise units.

“The business incubator is not just for the military veterans. It is important that the whole community knows what is happening here and that everyone can share in it.
“Opportunities for everyone in Wilton include youth facilities, training courses, socialising and arts. The enterprise hub build is due to start in September. Wiltshire & Swindon Local enterprise Partnership has considered providing some of the loan capital.”

Wilton CLT manager Zoe Cupit admitted: “We are a long way from our original plan (of building an eco-village) for the site. But our involvement sets a track record supporting this innovative project, and it’s a large learning curve.

“The advantages to the community are the economic boost and community benefits of cycle paths, footpaths, road crossings and transport. The Men’s Shed will engage the whole community and will be inter-generational, skill-sharing and young people coming together in a safe environment to learn practical skills,” Zoe said.

Asked what was the definition of a ‘veteran’, Sue quoted the RBL: ‘Anyone who has served in the armed forces for one day’.

Sue said: “They could be former serving personnel, aged from 18 up, and needing help. Offers of support for the project have come in from everywhere. Everyone is so positive but we need to get the message to the wider Wilton community that it’s for them, not just for veterans. Our local Armed Forces Veterans’ Breakfast Club have been fantastic, with advice and support over the past two years. They will move their sessions to the new coffee shop.”

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