At present, eleven adults and eight children live in the housing units near the monastery. The demand for living space at Nieuw Sion is high, says monastery director Peter Dullaert. There are about fifty people on a waiting list. That’s why it’s time to create more living spaces.
The plan was to convert the monks’ former workspaces into living quarters. It is a building that used to be a laundry, a forge and a bakery. The plans were well advanced. The permits were completed, and a subsidy from the province has also been promised. But bats live in the attic and the people of the monastery had never seen them there before.
It concerns several colonies of a total of six different species, says Dullaert. This is now being investigated first. That will take at least two years and the monastery does not want to wait that long. That is why an alternative has been devised, but it is much more expensive.
The old calf barn is now the designated place for living space. Four housing units can be created. The stable has not been in use for years and has no monumental status. Everything is still original and therefore a renovation will be much more work and it will also cost more money. A total of 800,000 euros is needed.
The bank wants to guarantee part of the financing and the monastery also has to cough up a large part itself. That is why a sponsorship campaign has been started in which people are asked to become donors. With the several thousand visitors that the monastery attracts every year, the monastery hopes that part of that money will come together in this way.
Sustainability is paramount in the renovation. 200 solar panels will be installed on the old step and heat pumps will be installed. The monastery’s energy bill is huge, says Dullaert. The solar panels can contribute to this.