Ultimate New Year present for former military veteran

A former military veteran says he has been given the perfect New Year’s gift after being handed the keys to the house he helped to build.

Adrian Colwill, 47, a former Royal Artillery soldier from the age of 16, experienced some mental health challenges when he left the forces.

Despite carrying out a number of roles on civvy street, including managing a hotel, Adrian was left on the brink of homelessness before a new opportunity arose at Stirling House in Plymouth.

A partnership between Plymouth City Council, housing association LiveWest, veterans’ charity Alabaré and Coyde Construction saw a number of former military personnel kick-start a career in construction by building their own homes.

Adrian has been working on the site since building work began and is now ready to move into his ‘dream home’.

Adrian said: “This is the ultimate New Year’s gift and now I feel like I have not just got a house but a future.

“It has been an emotional time for me and my family and we burst into tears when we found out we would be given the keys.

“My son cannot wait, he is so excited. He has already started planning how he is going to kit out his bedroom.

“It is more than I could have ever dreamed of.

“It has not been a straightforward journey as my son has been poorly which meant moving into the new house became even more important.

“It is one thing being part of a process to build a house but then to have ownership of that home is simply outstanding.

“The home is perfect and to think that I played a part in building it gives me enormous satisfaction.”

Stirling House, which began construction in July 2021, is providing 25 self-contained affordable homes for rent with 12 of those being self-built by former service personnel in need of housing. Each finished home is fully electric with air source heat pumps and high energy efficiency.

The project has benefited from grant-funding from government housing agency Homes England.

The scheme follows on from the completion of the Nelson Project in October 2017. This multi award-winning scheme saw the construction of a 24-home development that includes 12 self-build homes for military veterans and 12 mixed use affordable homes, including supported housing. 

Adrian is now looking forward to the future and plans to carve out a career in the construction sector having amassed a wealth of skills during the project.

He added: “To think Plymouth City Council, LiveWest, Coyde and Alabaré sat down together to work out what a veteran needs, and how that veteran can be supported, is humbling.

“The skills I have gained are unfathomable and the support has been incredible. I have done a number of courses in and around construction to develop my career, so this has not just given me a home but a future.

“I have got experience in the environmental sector so I would like to combine that with the construction industry.

“This has been more than about just bricks and mortar, it has changed my life forever and the future is a lot brighter than it was a few years ago.

“I have also made friends for life and one of my best friends is living next door to me. I can’t put into words how excited I am for the future.”