19th Aug, 2019

Future of 18th century Offa House again in jeopardy after planning permission refused

THE FUTURE of an 18th century mansion near Leamington is once again in jeopardy after planning permission for its redevelopment was turned down.

Offa House at Offchurch was for many years used as a retreat by the Church of England. Plans were considered to use it to provide temporary accommodation for Syrian refugees, but when they fell through it was sold in May 2017 after being put on the market with a guide price of £875,000.

New owners the Hartog family wanted to use the grade II listed building as a family home and applied to Warwick District Council for permission to completely renovate the 27-bedroom mansion, along with making a number of other changes.

But the plans have been turned down by the council’s planning committee after objections were lodged by Warwickshire County Council, the Conservation Area Forum and Historic England.

Concerns were raised about the impact on the landscape, size of the new house and the extension to Offa House causing damage to the existing building.

The Hartog family say their plans had been supported by neighbours – with 65 people backing the application – and Offchurch Parish Council saying few would take on the ‘significant’ project and it was a ‘positive development’.

The proposals included dividing the main 18th century property from a wing which was added in the 1980s and extending it, creating an additional four-bedroom property for their ‘aging parents’.

Louise Hartog said she did not know what to do next due to the ‘lack of options and unusual circumstances’ around developing the historic house.

She told the Observer: “We are deeply saddened this building is struggling to find rescue and the local authority can’t see the circumstances surrounding this site warrant a broader perspective being taken.

“The future of this beautiful house is once again in jeopardy.”

Before Offa House was sold to the Hartog family plans were in the pipeline to use the property as short term accommodation for Syrian refugees.

But the proposal fell through as the Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme was to put refugees straight into long term housing.

Offa House, which is within the village conservation area and next to St Gregory’s Church, was put on the market just under three 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.

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