REFUGEES fleeing war-torn Syria will not be setting up home in the Warwickshire countryside near Leamington.
The Home Office had been considering using 18th century Church of England-owned mansion Offa House at Offchurch as short term accommodation for refugees.
Bishop of Coventry, Bishop Christopher – who met with villagers this week – said: “Due to the way in which the Government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme has been set up, Syrian refugees are being immediately accommodated in long term housing.
“Therefore, I am sorry to say that the Home Office no longer has the need to use Offa House as short-term accommodation for Syrian refugees. I know that many of you will share the disappointment I feel about us not being able to use Offa House to support these people.”
Discussions are however on-going with the Home Office which has expressed interest in using Offa House to possibly accommodate other vulnerable people seeking asylum in the UK. In particular, discussions have focussed on receiving only mothers with young children and single women.
But once again the long term future of the grade II-listed property – used for decades as a retreat by both clergy and lay people – is 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.
Church leaders are now considering the future for the building. Options include possibly re-opening it as a retreat house, working in partnership with another charity, and looking again at selling it.