Charity plans for injured soldiers' village in Northumberland fail to materialise

A veteran's charity set up to build a £27 million retreat in Northumberland for severely injured soldiers has ended in fiasco

Steve Parsons/PA Wire Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, back the project which was due to be built at Ebchester
Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, back the project which was due to be built at Ebchester

Plans by a veterans’ charity set up to build a £27m retreat for severely injured soldiers in the North have ended in failure.

The proposals for the retreat on a 55-acre site in Northumberland included specially adapted homes, a medical centre, a cinema, catering facilities and treatment rooms.

Victoria Cross awardee Johnson Beharry backed the scheme for the land near Ebchester, close to the border with County Durham.

Ex-military policeman Bill Liddle, a victim of combat stress from his days in Northern Ireland, was leading the charity behind the village project, which was supposed to be ready last year. But Northumberland County Council has revealed that it has had “no contact from anyone connected with Veteran’s Retreat since some pre-planning application discussions held around October 2011.”

Banks, local authorities and investment firms were invited to back the Retreat’s “buy to let” homes for limbless soldiers. It was claimed the investment would be repaid thanks to housing benefits paid to the disabled vets who could live in the community for the rest of their lives.

A number of charity events also raised money for the scheme.

An artist's impression of the proposed centre for injured veterans which was to be built near Ebchester
An artist's impression of the proposed centre for injured veterans which was to be built near Ebchester
 

Mr Liddle, 67, claimed most of the money lost was from his own personal business loan.

He said: “I have a background in the military police, and my integrity is second to none. I won a bravery award.

“Never in my life have I done anything which is against the law. My business was to manufacture time frame housing developments and raise capital against rents to cover the mortgages. We built bungalows for the MoD on the Falklands.

“The charity has four trustees, including an accountant.

“Most of the money lost was mine, not donations, essentially it was a corporate loan. It turned from Veteran’s Retreat to veteran’s training charity, set up support for veterans looking for work. But I have now pulled out.”

Veteran Retreat’s latest accounts to the Charity Commision showed income of £4,246, and outgoings of £31,841.

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