HOMELESS voluntary group The New Mechanics Institute Trust is eyeing up an empty shop site for its new base, just yards from its former home.

Until recently, the trust called the former railway museum in Faringdon Road home.

But earlier this year the group, which paid only a nominal rent, was forced out so the council could refurbish it and use it as a base for its youth service.

Now the trust says it wants to set up in the former Past And Present shop on Faringdon Road.

The shop is owned by a charity and held in trust by the council.

Because of that, anyone wanting to use the shop would have to pay full market value - something the trust can't afford.

"This is a lovely building which is just sitting there, in the council's hands, unappreciated," said Martha Parry, the co-ordinator for the trust.

"But we can only apply for Government grants for funding and get on with what we do if we have a formal base."

The group was finally asked to leave the building a month ago.

The council did offer to hold the trust's belongings in storage. But members declined and instead are shifting boxes belonging to the trust to volunteers' sheds, spare rooms and garages.

Since moving out the only space offered to the group by the council, was above the information centre, which Martha said was not acceptable.

A council spokesman said: "We have looked at several premises in the hope that they may be suitable for the trust. The premises on Faringdon Road are held in trust by the council for a charity.

"It is therefore not in the council's gift to offer a reduced rate for the building.

"Additionally, it's only able to be used at present for retail purposes, and any change of use from that would require planning permission."