A FORMER Bond girl turned vicar is helping hard-up families in Merseyside build new homes in a pioneering skill-swap scheme.
Rev Shannon Ledbetter is masterminding the £1.9m project that will see a series of houses built in an area blighted since the 1981 Toxteth Riots, in Liverpool.
Shannon appeared alongside heart-throb Pierce Brosnan in the 1997 James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.
The former model sported a £250,000 PVC dress in the movie and has appeared on the covers of numerous glossy magazines around the world.
But she turned her back on modelling and studied to become an Anglican priest.
Now, as Chairman of the Habitat for Humanity Liverpool programme, she is behind a scheme which is aiming to build 32 three-bedroom houses on just over two acres of land to help families that can’t raise the deposit for a mortgage on a house.
Potential residents, assisted by a team of volunteers, invest 500 hours in the construction of their home, which counts as a £10,000 down-payment on the property.
The would-be homeowners then obtain a mortgage of as little as £40,000, up to two- thirds of the purchase price, while nothing on the remaining equity for five years.
Rev Ledbetter, 43, said: “I'm so pleased to see the first stage of the project complete.
“I’ve enjoyed some great times in my life, and appearing next to Pierce Brosnan in Bond was definitely up there with the best.
“Being a Bond girl was one kind of achievement and an incredible feeling.
“I really enjoyed the showbiz experience, but I didn’t feel I was contributing to society as much as I could.
“Habitat for Humanity is not a ‘hand-out’ project. It is designed to give people an opportunity use their own talents to achieve a better standard of living.”
The first residents have just moved into the first of the new properties in Kingsley Road.
One of those who took advantage of the scheme was Michael Embaye, a 36-year-old social worker who is moving in with his partner.
Michael said: “There’s no way I could have afforded the costs associated with buying a property, so this has helped me a lot.
“I’ve tried to get on the property ladder before but the prices are ridiculous these days.
“It’s been a very long journey to get to this stage and me and my partner have had to put a lot of effort into the house.
“Shannon and the rest of the staff and volunteers have been absolutely fantastic and I can’t thank them enough.
“I'm looking forward to spending Christmas in my new home.”
THE second phase of the HFH project, building another two properties for prospective homeowners, is under way and expected to be completed by March, 2008.