Two years ago, a ‘landmark’ plan to create a community for war veterans in east Manchester was approved by Manchester City Council. The aim was to create a veterans’ housing “village” within the existing Newton Heath community, with disabled access to homes and disabled parking. In September 2015, the BBC’s DIY SOS: The Big Build team moved in to refurbish eight derelict properties, with a little help from Princes William and Harry. In November 2016, DIY SOS returned to refurbish the final house, creating a specially adapted home for 36-year old Iraq war veteran Simon Flores and his three young children.
This bespoke final home is being delivered as part of the award-winning development by the BBC’s DIY SOS team, Manchester City Council, charities Haig Housing Trust, Walking With The Wounded, key contractors Kier, Wates, Arcus, architects BTP plus hundreds of generous volunteer contractors and suppliers – including a familiar face or two from the installer community.
Simon, a Corporal in the Royal Green Jackets, lost his foot and suffered other severe injuries when the vehicle he was in was hit by an IED during a patrol. After leaving the army in 2008, he met his partner and had three children. Things were looking up, but Simon was struggling to adjust to civilian life as a disabled person and his relationship eventually broke down. He found himself and his children in an unadapted two-bed house, sharing one of the bedrooms with his youngest son. The house was in a very poor state of repair, which he tried to make more homely using free furniture. He’d reached the stage where he just wanted a fresh start, in a home adapted to his needs, where his children would be safe and where he could be among other families and veterans who have been through life-changing events too. In November, Simon’s fresh start began.
It was a nine-day build and manufacturers and tradespeople were on hand to give their products and skills for free. Intergas was delighted to work with the DIY SOS team to create a heating system that will provide Simon’s heat and hot water – utilising its Eco RF 30 boiler, which incorporates a remote monitoring facility. It comes fitted with a radio frequency module which sends and receives information wirelessly between the boiler and installer. So now Drew Styles, the P5 heating engineer who worked with Pemberton Plumbing, Heating and Electrical Services on its installation, will be checking the Eco RF’s performance from his phone and computer, and make any adjustments necessary remotely.
An appointment was made for Mark Prescott, Intergas Business Development Manager, and Drew to show Simon how to use the Intouch app, a free app for the ECO RF, which turns a smartphone into a smart thermostat. But Simon was ahead of them and had already set it up. “The instructions were very straightforward and Intouch is easy to operate. When Mark and Drew arrived, they checked I’d done everything correctly – I had – and then took me through the boiler operation,” said Simon.
Simon will be able to control every aspect of his central heating when he’s not at home. And he’s also now more in control of his destiny and is planning to fulfil his dream of becoming a fitness trainer to fellow amputees, helping them to rebuild their lives.
Simon and other veterans in Newton Heath are supported by veterans’ charity, Walking With The Wounded.