ASYLUM seekers will not be setting up home in the Warwickshire countryside near Leamington.
Plans were originally in the pipeline to use the 18th century Church of England-owned mansion Offa House at Offchurch as short term accommodation for Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war.
But that plan fell through as the Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme was putting Syrian refugees straight into long term housing.
Church leaders then looked at the possibility of housing asylum seekers from other countries at Offa House, but following consultation with villagers, the Home Office and G4S the proposal has been dropped.
Bishop of Coventry Christopher Despite said: “Despite our shared desire to make it work, we have judged that it is not possible to overcome a number of practicalities.
“Therefore, it is with reluctance, and certainly not for want of trying, that we have come to the conclusion that Offa House does not make for the right kind of provision for these purposes.
” I am grateful to both the Home Office and G4S for the expertise, effort and goodwill they have brought to this project.
“We have received valuable support in all this work from the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, and I am particularly appreciative of the contribution of the CEO, Sabir Zazai, in sharing his wisdom and advice.
“In stepping away from this possibility, I want to emphasise the continuing commitment of the Diocese to respond in Christ’s name to the pressing refugee crisis of our time. We will be actively looking for other practical ways in which to express this commitment.”
It once again leaves the long term future of the grade II-listed property – used for decades as a retreat by both clergy and lay people – up in the air.
Offa House, which is within the village conservation area and next to St Gregory’s Church, has 27 bedrooms and was put on the market just over two years ago with a guide price of £1.25million. There was talk of it becoming a country house hotel or a private school, but it failed to sell.
Options being considered include possibly re-opening it as a retreat house, working in partnership with another charity, and looking again at selling it.