27 Syrian refugees to be housed by Church of England in converted rectory

Offa House will be used under the Government's vulnerable persons relocation scheme.Diocese of Coventry

The Church of England is set to provide housing for up to 27 refugees in a country house it owns near Leamington Spa, reports say.

The large former Rectory is currently without a permanent use, having previously been a retreat house and conference centre.

The Diocese of Coventry is understood to have sought planning permission to return the building – Offa House – to residential use which would mean it would be able to accommodate Syrian refugees.

In the wake of a letter signed by 84 bishops last week, which criticised the government's agreement to take only 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years, some commentators suggested that the Church should be using some of its underused buildings to house those fleeing the conflict in Syria.

While that criticism was arguably always churlish – the Archbishop of Canterbury has accommodated refugees at Lambeth Palace itself, for example – many more offers of help will be needed. This latest gesture from the Diocese of Coventry is in keeping with the leadership shown by the bishop there, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth. In July, he hosted a reception for Syrians who have already been settled in Coventry.

It's believed the house would initially be given over to the refugees for around five years.

A spokesperson for the diocese told the Warwick Courier: "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."

The Grade II-listed building will be used under the Government's vulnerable persons relocation scheme.

The Diocesan spokesperson added, "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."