A CHURCH-owned mansion near Leamington which had been considered as a temporary home for Syrian refugees is now to be sold.
Plans were originally in the pipeline to use the 18th century Church of England-owned Offa House at Offchurch as short term accommodation for 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 the former Diocesan Retreat House, but following consultation with villagers, the Home Office and G4S the proposal was also dropped.
And after considering further possibilities – including seeking a sustainable plan to re-open Offa House as a retreat house and working in partnership with another Christian charity – a final decision has been made to sell.
Bishop Christopher said: “I know that this decision will be met with disappointment and sadness.
“Offa House holds a very special place in the hearts of many people in the village of Offchurch and hundreds of people across the whole Diocese of Coventry and beyond. It is always hard to let go of a much-loved friend. The members of my Council also shared these feelings when making their decision.
One of hardest things for those charged with leadership and governance is saying ‘no’ to good ideas. The re-opening of Offa House was indeed a good idea, but after much discussion, my Council finally decided that it was not the best strategic use of our limited resources.
“I am extremely grateful to the Johnson family who donated a house on School Hill and funds to enable the former Vicarage to become the Diocesan Retreat House. It has been such a wonderful asset that has benefited thousands of people in Warwickshire and Coventry over several decades.”
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 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.