Traditionally, Scientology ‘orgs’ (short for ‘organisation) have been modest rented premises near foot traffic, so that Scientologists could present the public with various promotional devices.
Typically they offer ‘stress tests’ on their e-meter. Those interested are taken back to the org for a ‘personality test’. This test, which has no scientific validiity, always concludes that the subject desperately needs help from Scientology and is a hard-sell recruitment method.
However, some years ago, the present ‘leader’ of Scientology, David Miscavige embarked on a project to replace these practical placed with their own much larger and well-appointed buildings
At the same time, recruitment methods shifted from personal contact to media. Scientology now has a streaming TV channel, constantly repeating suite of propaganda programmes, and video kiosks have appeared in orgs. Miscavige claims that these changes will lead to a ‘boom’ in membership, but falls short on reasons why.
Critics suggest that this property binge all about presenting the appearance of expansion to members who take Scientology’s word for everything (especially the richer ones, who can make substantial donations). They also observe that, once opened, the same small numbers of diehard staff just rattle about inside a larger building, struggling even harder to pay the routine bills.
This appears to have been the case in the two ideal org openings that I have previously reported on, in Birmingham England, and Firhouse in the Republic of Ireland The latter was a massive facility for a nation with only 87 Scientologists)
However, they have applied so, after the break, lets take a look at the news and the documents.
The Local News Report
The news report is provided by the website of the local newspaper, the Plymouth Herald. Read it in full here. Note that it was written by Carl Eve their Crime reporter.
I will cherry-pick some interesting parts and save others for later.
This is the rendering showing what the final product is supposed to look like. It is provided by Paul Butler Associates a company specialising in managing planning applications, especially those concerning buildings with some historical interest .
The present reality is somewhat less impressive. Note that the picturesque razor wire atop the Royal Dockyard wall on the right, and a lampost, have both mysteriously gone missing from the first image.
It’s unlikely that the Dockyard can be persuaded to do remove these things – they tend to like to secrure the area, as it contains nuclear submarines undergoing decommissioning, not to mention nuclear munitions.
Neither picture (the lower one is mine) makes it clear that the dockyard wall runs right around the back of the building, creating a narrow rear ally.
The reporter states,
Nine years after buying the Royal Fleet Club, the Church of Scientology are once again applying to restore it.
The church, via its agents Paul Butler Associates, lodged a planning application with Plymouth City Council requesting consent for the “comprehensive repair, refurbishment and change of use of the Royal Fleet Club to enable its conversion to a place of worship and religious instruction”
The request by the organisation which is referred to in documents as the ‘Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc’, has stated that the planning application will also include “ancillary communal and administrative uses” and will require “associated external alterations, landscaping works and various signage”.
After buying the Royal Fleet Hotel – formerly the Royal Fleet Club – from Midlands-based businessman, Kailash Suri, in the summer of 2010 for an estimated £1m, The Church of Scientology outlined ambitious plans for the 114-year-old site in Morice Square.
The plans – estimated at the time to be a further £2.5m – in included a library, chapel, information centre, book store, course and lecture rooms, offices and a cafe.
Most people will not know the interesting story behind “The Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc” (COSRECI) mentioned above
The Church of Scientology’s Tax Avoidance Scheme
COSRECI is, in fact a tax avoidance scheme. Bear with me – this gets complicated.
In 1999 The Charity Commission refused an application by “The Church of Scientology England and Wales” for charitable status (which comes of course with tax concessions. The main grounds given were that,
- Scientology provided no public benefit
- Scientology services come in the form of courses that have to be paid for, so they are not available to the public who subsidise it.
They were therefore liable to pay UK tax.
In response Scientology created an Australian Company (COSRECI) and registered all UK assets with it. There is a reciprocal agreement between Australia and the UK. If a UK company is registered in Australia, the Australian authorites levy tax, and vice versa. That’s very practical, because tax officals can’t operate at that distance.
Scientology’s trick was to register COSRECI in the state of South Australia, where Scientology is registered as a tax-exempt religion. Scientologists in the UK will charge their members money for all their ‘Church Services’ make a profit, but pay no tax, despite being found ineligable to become a charity.
The Building Has Been Left to Rot for Almost a Decade
The reporter continues,
According to the agents the four-storey building is now derelict and in a poor state of repair with water ingress seriously damaging the fabric of the building.
Ex-members report water running down the walls, and the flat roofing of extensions around the back can be plainly seen to be collapsing. The place is in a terrible state. Why Scientology allows buildings to rot, and then renovates them, when they could have saved money with simple maintenance is hard to understand, but it has been noted by the press. Some of the places discussed in that article are now also the subject of planning permissions.
Here are some photographs I have taken over the last few years. There will be more to come, soon
How Many Scientologists are There Anyway?
The reporter goes on to note that Scientology offers ‘expansion’ as a reason to grant permission.
Explaining the need for the church to convert the building, the application states: “The demand for Scientology services has had a steady increase over the last ten years in the UK and Internationally’.
Scientology membership in the UK is small. The most recent census, in 2011 recorded 2,417 Scientologists in the entire country. this included minor children, independent Scientologists and foreign ‘students in the country on census day, so it’s likely optomistic. Also, since 2011, there has been a lot of bad media for Scientology, so membership has likely declined significantly in the intervening 8 years.
Most Scientologists concentrated around their HQ in Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead. Consequently there were only 28 Scientologists in the whole Soutwest of England.
It’s hard to imagine why they are renovating a hotel with 55 rooms (some double), kitchens, bars, storage rooms, two ballrooms and staff apartments, for so few. Just counting the rooms, every Scientologist in the Southwest of England could have two each.
Scientologists do not seem to be aware of the census results. When they bought the building 8 years ago, “Church spokesman” Marianne Rowell made the following statement:
“Scientology, especially in the South West, is growing and that is why we need such a large premises,” said Miss Rowell“. There are about 12,000 scientologists in the region.”A planning application is likely to be submitted within the coming months to allow the refurbishment to take place to convert it into a church.
Again. In 2011 the National Census recorded 2,417 Scientologists in the entire country and 28 in the region. The claim that there are 12,000 Scientologists here is just farcical. The first planning application was made years later , in 2016 and allowed to lapse. It’s taken until today for the second application to be made.
You evidently can’t rely on the word of the Church of Scienotlogy.
What is the Local Reaction?
There has already been an objection lodged. The previous application, gave rise to a petition a petition signed by more than 100 people asking the Council to refuse permission. Unfortunately the Council is bound by very strict legal criteria. They cannot refuse permission because they disapprove of the organisation.
The application was made on February the 25. A decision will be made on May 25 according to the law. Scientology has hired a company expensive legal specialists in planning law to push it though.
If residents don’t like the idea of Scientology on their doorstep, now is the time to object to the Council on recognised grounds – if we take Scientology’s inflated membership claims on face value, the fact that they only have 9 parking spaces clearly justifies an objection on the ground that this is insufficent parking in the area.
PS: The Dead Tree Version
These days, the web version of stories is typically published a day before the print version (because, of course the latter takes time to print and distribute) and there is a lot more content in the web version. This story was was no exception.
For the sake of a complete record, this planning application made page three, with a flash on the front page just below the title of the paper. The front page story was about the closure of a local GP surgery.
Here are the two relevant parts.