Plans in for Offchurch house to open up to refugees

Offa House. Picture from the Diocese of Coventry
Offa House. Picture from the Diocese of Coventry

Offchurch could become a safe haven for around 27 Syrian refugees as church leaders seek permission for a former rectory to be opened up as emergency housing.

Planning permission has been requested for the now unused Offa House to be used as temporary accommodation for refugees for up to five years.

Put forward by the Diocese of Coventry which owns the Grade II-listed Georgian rectory, the plan aims to help just some of the thousands of families and workers seeking shelter across Europe through the Government’s vulnerable persons relocation scheme.

But any housing arrangements would have to be agreed jointly with Warwickshire County Council, Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council as part of wider discussions on support for refugees.

A diocese spokesperson said that while plans are still in early stages, as the house has around 27 empty bedrooms and suitable kitchen spaces, it lends itself perfectly to a temporary housing solution.

He said: “This would not require any work to the building other than a few repairs. The house was used as a retreat up until 2013 where people could come for a time of reflection and prayer for a short time.

“It lends itself very well to a space for people in need as a temporary measure, for instance those on the vulnerable persons scheme who need a place to stay while paperwork is completed and permanent homes are found.”

Standing next to St Gregory’s parish church, the building was used as village vicarage until 1961.

It was later run as the diocesan’s retreat house and conference centre but closed in 2013 due to financial pressures. The house was partially re-opened for daily prayer last year and plans are now being developed for its long-term future.

In July, the Bishop of Coventry hosted a reception for Syrian refugees who had come to the city. Council leaders have also agreed that steps will be taken to help vulnerable refugees.