Monastery has green plans for village base

A monastery that runs free retreats to help people discover inner peace has revealed ambitious £12 million redevelopment plans.

The proposal, which will be shown to the public during an open day at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery this month, involves replacing the wooden huts that make up the site in Great Gaddesden with eco-friendly buildings.

The Abbot Ajahn Amaro inside the temple at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Great Gaddesden.

The Abbot Ajahn Amaro inside the temple at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Great Gaddesden.

But the project will not happen overnight – it is expected to be completed in stages over the next 20 to 30 years as funds become available. The first stage – the creation of a nursing cottage for older residents – should start next summer.

Abbot Ajahn Amaro “We are not very rich so we don’t have the resources where we can take everything to the ground and rebuild in one fell swoop.

“We would like to do a small piece by piece redevelopment as the funds come in.

“We rely totally on free will donations, we don’t sell anything, we don’t have any businesses.”

The monastery in St Margarets Road was originally built as a summer camp for children in 1939 but the outbreak of war meant it became home to young evacuees.

It was later used as one of the first schools in the country for children with special learning needs but this closed in the early 1980s due to a lack of demand.

The monastery community, which had outgrown its home in West Sussex, took up residence in 1984.

The site uses the same amount of energy as an estate of around 500 houses and costs around £1,000 a day to run.

Under green redevelopment plans solar panels would be introduced along with biomass boilers.

Today, around 30 monks and nuns live at the monastery, where a stunning temple was completed in 1999, and regular classes and retreats are held for the public.

The monastery, which operates an open door policy, is hosting a special open day when visitors will be able to view the plans on Saturday, July 27 from 10am to 4pm.

Any feedback will be considered before a formal outline planning application is submitted to Dacorum Borough Council.