I have described the building that is supposed to become Plymouth’s Ideal Org in previous posts.
Situated close to the Royal Dockyard in Devonport, it was built to provide visiting Royal Navy personnel and Royal Marines with a (respectable) place to stay.
After it was sold by the Royal Navy, it had a brief and unsuccessful career as a hotel. In 2010 the building was sold to the Church of Scientology for £1,000,000 ($1,680,187).
It is now 2015… and the place is still empty and untouched. It’s not difficult to see why – it has 50 rooms, 2 ballrooms, kitchens, storage areas and… well, it’s a big building – too big, considering that, according to the 2011 National Census, there were only 26 Scientologists in Plymouth (including ‘independents’) and only 2,418 in the entire country.
Local Scientologists soldier on in their more modest premises near the central shopping area (where they at least have access to foot traffic). In contrast, their Ideal Org is in an out-of-the-way part of the city increasingly surrounded by affordable housing.
So what has changed since June the 6th 2014, when I last photographed the place?
Since then all of these plants have been cut back (see image on right) leaving only a few stumps.
This, however, is the only visible sign of maintenance work. I suspect it has been done because
- It makes the building look less… abandoned
- The local council takes a dim view of insecure masonry. They are liable to order repairs of potentially dangerous buildings or (if these are not completed promptly) do the work themselves and charge the owner.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Around the side of building, the rot is literally setting in. In the image to the left the door, and the window above it, is uPVC but the timber frame is so rotten it can no longer support a simple bulkhead light.
Around the back of the building are some later additions – terrible blocks which are completely out of keeping with the original architecture.
It is the flat roofs of these buildings that is of particular interest. They consist of sheets of chipboard laid on top of rafters which is protected with roofing felt (aka tar-paper) treated with hot bitumen and gravel.
The poor state of the eaves, and the broken guttering can be clearly seen in the image on the right. The yellow staining is caused by mould growing in areas of brickwork that are saturated by water leaking onto it.
The most heavily stained area bears the brunt of the prevailing wind, and is immediately below the delicate flat roof. Also, at the side of the building, a line of yellow stain extends from the top to the bottom below a visible gap in the guttering.
When the eaves and guttering are in this state, the condition of the flat roof is cause for serious concern. Even small leaks in this type of membrane can cause considerable damage, as they go undetected until the saturated chipboard deck collapses, bringing the ceiling down with it.
Curiouser and Curiouser
It turned out that there was a lively group of homeless men drinking cheap cider in a loading bay, which was approximately 40 feet square.
The only evidence of their presence now, is piles of empty bottles and cans in a fenced-off area that once stored waste bins.
This is because the loading bay is now secured with a substantial iron gate. looking through this gate, you can see that the area behind it now contains a 12-foot trailer caravan. Like the building itself, this modest caravan is in a poor state of repair – one of the windows is boarded up, and its external lighting is damaged.
The puzzle is, of course, what it is doing there at all.
Minimal maintenance is being done, which is focussed on ‘keeping up appearances’. However, any sensible owner would be seriously concerned about the state of the fabric of the building – especially the flat roofs on the structures around the back. These are likely degrading, and water ingress could be very bad for the poorly-ventilated interior of the building.
Ideal Orgs in the UK do not have a very good record for completion, and official Church of Scientology statements have put the renovation of Plymouth’s building back several times. The Church has also estimated that this project will cost £2,500,000 ($4,200,391) and is still raising funds for this purpose.
Ideal Org projects in other parts of the UK have ended with the new building being found ‘unsuitable’ and sold. Fund-raising then recommences to acquire another. This seems to be the likely fate of Plymouth ‘Ideal Org’.