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Project Dignity plan to house homeless veterans in Gedney Hill set to be passed next week

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Homeless veterans could soon be getting accommodation and support in a new facility in our area - with plans set to be passed next week.

Project Dignity has been proposed by John Murray and Mel Shephard for a site in Station Road, Gedney Hill.

It would provide temporary assisted accommodation for six veterans a year in ‘barrack style’ buildings - with the aim of integrating them back into society and helping them to get jobs.

John Murray has spearheaded the Project Dignity plans. (47111425)
John Murray has spearheaded the Project Dignity plans. (47111425)

The buildings are deliberately designed to provide a familiar setting, with Mr Murray explaining: “We need to take this back to where they felt safe - when they were in their barracks with their mates laughing and joking - and start from there.

“Trust is so important to these guys, once you’ve got that you’ve got a great foundation.

“There’s nothing wrong with these guys, they just need to reintegrate.”

While at the facility, veterans will work in the farming community - helping to plug gaps in an industry short of workers.

Council officers have recommended that members of the district council’s planning committee pass the reintegration facility at their meeting next week.

The site currently has ‘temporary storage buildings and agricultural paraphernalia’ on it - and is screened by trees.

Mr Murray added: “It’s secluded, it’s tranquil, it’s exactly what it should be - that’s why this spot was so perfect.”

The idea is to run the project for an initial 36-month period, and if successful it will be ‘scaled up on-site and replicated elsewhere across the country’.

Mr Murray explained: “It’s great for the whole area. It’s the flagship and will bring a lot of attention to the area to do such a wonderful thing.

“When this is a success and we have ironed out any wrinkles we have a 400 acre site in Northumbria and we have got others all around the country who will start Project Dignity in their area with this as a model.”

He said it was ‘beyond belief’ to have made it this far - and was pleased to have the support of the community.

He added: “We are really racing ahead with it - it’s been a long haul and we have had lots of paperwork to do.

“I think we have put forward a plan that works for everybody.”

Rescued racehorses will be used to help provide the therapy on site - while documents suggest celebrities are going to be approached to work in the kitchens and gardens, and maybe to help promote the project to a wider audience.

Mr Murray is a member of the Knights Templar Great Britain - a not-for-profit Christian charity.

His project was supported by Rev Michael Ongyerth, vicar of the Elloe Fen Benefice, who wrote: “I have to say that ‘Project Dignity’ is an excellent example of Christianity in action. So many of our armed forces personnel leave the Army unprepared for civilian life and consequently fall through the social services system through no fault of their own.”

Coun Paul Redgate also supported the idea - highlighting the work Mr Murray has done for residents in recent times - providing food and equipment for those who have been struggling.

Sponsorship and Lottery funding will be sought to help pay for the projected £994,100 costs of the scheme.

An enforcement notice was served on the site in October 2020 for unauthorised residential use - although this does not relate to the applicant.

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