The biggest build yet for DIY SOS

Robi Dutta on site at DIY SOS DIY SOS Executive Producer Robi Dutta on site at DIY SOS

Something wonderful has been afoot in East Manchester… something which has attracted the interest of both the Director General and royalty.

The DIY SOS team have returned with their Big Build, helping rejuvenate two derelict streets in the city and establishing new homes and a support centre for war veterans.

Executive Producer Robi Dutta told Ariel: "The whole project started a year ago when we came up with an idea with Nick Knowles about helping war veterans and ex-servicemen by using empty homes after Nick talked to Walking With The Wounded. Manchester City Council responded to our approach and were, and have been, incredibly proactive.

"The council identified two streets which were typical, red brick terraced houses. Half were empty, boarded up and falling apart. We then teamed up with Haig Housing and Adactus Housing Groups. In addition, many suppliers, utilities and smaller specialist companies also came forward to help on our biggest ever project.

"We decided to build four new homes from seven which included knocking some of them together and then building a support centre to be run by two charities to provide support and outreach work for veterans. The idea was that one of the homes would be a place where the veterans could go and stay for six months while they retrained as builders because we were keen with helping with jobs as well as homes.

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We also got fantastic support from our colleagues in BBC North. BBC News came out, Radio Five Live, Radio Manchester and North West Tonight were all fantastic.”

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"Through the council, we then got architects and major building firms on board. Normally, we would be project managers but this was too big, so we got Keir to project manage it.

"Once we got going, we decided to do the fronts of the entire street which involved rendering 62 properties, installing new windows and doors as well as landscaping and re-tarmacing the street.

Amazing generosity

"The whole street got new water, gas and BT supplied new cables. It all came to about £2.5m and obviously we can't afford that sort of money so we had to beg for contributions. The generosity of everyone that helped was amazing.

The DIY SOS team and Prince William Billy Byrne and the Duke of Cambridge share more than just their first names on DIY SOS

"Every day we were trying to get volunteers on board which was a huge research project for our great team. The houses were in far worse condition than we had thought which caused us to overrun by three days - a DIY SOS first.

"Series Producer, Hamish Summers, did a brilliant job getting everyone on board. We ramped the team up slowly bringing in extra researchers as we needed them and the team worked incredibly hard working really long hours to pull off this monumental challenge.

"We also got fantastic support from our colleagues in BBC North. BBC News came out, Radio 5 Live, Radio Manchester and North West Tonight were all fantastic. The local radio and TV stations were great. We've also been supported by The One Show.

"It was incredible that Prince William and Prince Harry attended. We had heard that Prince William was a fan of the show and both he and Harry seemed to really enjoy being there, mucking in and joining in with the banter. It was also great to be supported by the DG as well who visited with a group of local MPs.

"The first group of veterans and their families have already moved in to newly renovated properties and joined the existing community. It's so rewarding to have been able to do something for the veterans who have done so much for us.

"The end result was a tribute to amazing teamwork and, perhaps the biggest thing I learned, was that we, the BBC, have enormous leverage in getting people to do things, especially if it's for a great cause. It shows they also believe in the BBC and they believe in the programme."

DIY SOS: Homes for Veterans in Manchester, airs on 14 and 21 October at 20:00 on BBC One.

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