Kempens Landschap

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Investment by Kempens Landschap

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The Colonies of Benevolence of Wortel & Merksplas were based on the ideals embedded in the social developments of the 18th century.

They were founded to provide housing and work for poor families and paupers to alleviate poverty - the approach had significant influence throughout Europe.

Over time the infertile land was turned into profit-making agricultural land which, along with the building complexes, was maintained by the paupers.

After the law on vagrancy was abolished in 1993 a prison was established in each Colony and in 1997 both areas were recognised as protected landscapes with the buildings recorded as scheduled ancient monuments.

However, much of the built heritage is in bad condition and public accessibility to the landscape is limited. In order change this plans were developed with focus on the farmstead of Merksplas-Colony and the prison of Wortel-Colony.

Restoration of the south wing of the farmstead will be carried out by contractors as the first step in creating an attractive economic area that will involve the local community in the preservation and promotion.

The restoration of the prison of Wortel-Colony, however, will be undertaken by the prisoners themselves (on a voluntary basis) thus linking to the tradition of paupers maintaining the area.

Furthermore, with part of the prison being modified into a training area for the prisoners, the skills learnt can be utilised upon their re-integration into society.

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