Nuns want to build shepherd’s huts to live in total silence

Images of similar style shepherd's huts. Picture: Breckland council planning/ Timberpad Ltd

Images of similar style shepherd's huts. Picture: Breckland council planning/ Timberpad Ltd - Credit: Archant

It's not your usual planning application for councillors to determine at their monthly committee meetings.

And while Norfolk may generally be known as a quiet county, total silence may be harder to find.

The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham wants to build two shepherd's huts for use as accommodation hermitages where members can live in total silence and prayer.

The huts would be built on the site of the House of the Divine Will, Neatherd Moor, in Dereham, and used by visiting members and friends of the Community, including nuns, priests and lay people, but only for short stays.

Documents submitted to Breckland council state that the rule of the community requires members to each have days of total silence and solitude for the purpose of prayer. The risk of noise pollution at the huts would have to be minimal.

Applicant Sister Camilla Oberding, community leader, said in a letter to the council: "Total solitude is only possible in a hermitage or poustinia which is self-contained.

"Our intention would be to surround both of the huts with prayer gardens conducive to silent reflection and prayer.

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"We have members living around the country who need these times of rest and refreshment so they would only be for the use of the immediate community.

"It is not a business venture."

The letter continues: "We have discussed this project with our neighbours and they have been supportive. We are also open to supporting local churches in Dereham by offering church leaders and pastors a chance to make use of the shepherds' huts to deepen their own prayer life."

A design and access statement with the application says that the huts would contain kitchen and bathroom facilities, and the extra floorspace required would be 50 sqm. The site is currently a garden. It was previously an agricultural field. A mature holly hedge will provide extensive screening from neighbouring properties, while the other boundaries are also obscured with fences, trees and hedges.

Poustinia is a Russian word that means desert, a place to meet Christ in silence, solitude and prayer.