Plymouth Ideal Org Revisited

DSC_0051

Click on any of the images on this page to see an enlarged version

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?

The Façade

DSC_0004On my last visit (see left) it was the height of summer, and plants were visibly growing all over the decorative plinths on the outside of the building – but especially in this location.

Left unchecked, it was only a matter of time before the DSC_0052root systems  of these fast-growing plants dangerously weakened the heavy decorative plinths which they were already well embedded in.

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

DSC_0057 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.

DSC_0058Such roofing is notoriously short-lived, and this type of flat roof is gradually being replaced by versions using modern and durable synthetic membranes.

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

DSC_0072During my previous visit, I DSC_0069walked up the alley around the back of the building, wondering where the loud, cheerful, voices were coming from.

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.

DSC_0071This 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.

 

Conclusion

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’.

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5 thoughts on “Plymouth Ideal Org Revisited

  1. Another great article. Beautifully written and very informative.

    What’s the betting one of the cult’s unfortunate members is sleeping in that caravan? If so, is that illegal?

    • Thank you.

      That the caravan is occupied is one theory. Doing so when it is almost inside a large, unoccupied building may well be contrary to fire regulations. There might also be fire safety issues if the caravan contains the usual big bottle of Calor Gas. However, I have not idea why it’s there, and no evidence at all that it is occupied.

      However it can be plainly seen that this caravan is a very poor state of repair. One of the windows has been broken and boarded up, and the rear lights and reflectors are extensively damaged. In its present state, it is not road legal.

      Three other possibilities occurred to me:

      1) The work removing the foliage that was damaging the façade (shown in my first post on this subject) was done by Scientologists who moved the caravan in to use as a modest ‘site van’ for tools and materials. I entertain the modest hope that this work was done because of my previous post, due to the anxiety currently being generated by the imminent Alex Gibney film.

      2) The caravan is being used to store things which local Scientologists don’t have room for in the very small premises that they presently occupy (in Ebrington Street). Since Plymouth Org does not own the ‘Ideal Org’ building perhaps they have been refused permission to use this for storage. An old caravan, would be reasonably secure behind the substantial gate, and could be relocated in a hurry, so nobody at head office need be any the wiser… oops…

      3) Someone is charging the caravan’s owner for ‘secure’ storage (of the ‘van &/or contents).

      • The Cult only normally does essential maintenance when they are made to (see my YT video re pollution at St Hill – http://youtu.be/vgjt8eR1K4w). I made a complaint to the EPA and HSE and The Cult got visited and told to clean up their act. Only then did they fix the problems.

        During the recent shindig in Dublin (Scientology – Enough Is Enough), I spoke to x. He told me that previously a long-term Scientology public member who was penniless (quelle surprise) was allowed to live at the Plymouth Idle Morgue in exchange for guarding the place. Given the parlous state of it, it seems entirely possible that someone could be sleeping in that caravan rather than risk getting eaten by rats in the main building.

        • I saw your video about the Saint Hill cess-pit… somewhere. Well done!

          I see your point about maintenance. The trimming of the plants in the façade was relatively cheap to do, and improved the appearance of the building. The substance is rotting away, however. Previous (unpublished) photographs I have taken show how the flat roof around the back is deteriorating. I have had some experience of a flat roof of this vintage going bad, and it’s not nice.

          If someone is living in that caravan, I pity the poor sod – and am quite concerned for them. It is unfit for human habitation. It is in such a poor state that the gas system is unlikely to be safe (and what is he using for a toilet!?) Also the weather has been very cold of late. To top it off, occupying the premises is probably illegal… and what about Council Tax / business rates?

          However, this does explain why the place has not been vandalised, and the ‘eviction’ of the homeless guys who had been enjoying undisturbed drinking in the loading bay.

          The more closely I look at this situation the weirder it gets.

        • I am a ‘never in’ who is only now in the early stages of developing personal contacts with activists and ex-Scientologists. As it happens, the person you mention is one of those. I have replaced his name with an ‘x’ in your comment as I feel that I should ask his permission to include it, and am able to do so.

          I am quite sure that you are confident that this person would not mind their name being used – but in my present situation I feel I should tread carefully until I understand the etiquette.

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