10th Dec, 2016

Home for Syrian refugees proposed in Warwickshire

Stratford Editorial 27th Oct, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

REFUGEES from Syria could soon be setting up home in the Warwickshire countryside near Leamington.

Planning permission is being sought to use an 18th century Church of England owned mansion at Offchurch as a temporary reception centre for refugees fleeing war torn Syria.

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 two years ago with a guide price of £1.25million.

There was talk of the grade II-listed property – used for decades as a retreat by both clergy and lay people – possibly becoming a country house hotel or a private school.

But the Diocese of Coventry has now taken the original grand rectory off the market following a call from bishops for empty church buildings to be offered as housing to help tackle the refugee crisis engulfing Europe. A planning application has been submitted to Warwick District Council.

Diocese spokesman Graeme Pringle said: “The suitability of Offa House as short-term welcome accommodation for Syrian refugees is currently being investigated. As part of this investigation, the Diocese of Coventry has applied for planning permission to change the use of Offa House.”

He added the building would only require a few repairs to make it suitable while permanent homes were found for the refugees.

Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has already offered a cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace to house refugees.

The former Southam vicar said: “As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.”

The Diocese of Coventry is also exploring other ways of providing practical help and support for Syrian refugees.

Refugees at grave risk of harm are being selected to come to the UK, directly from camps in Syria, under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme.