My friend and I were passing close by the Plymouth Ideal Org building, and decided to take a look.
This place was built by the Royal Navy to house personnel while their ships were in the adjacent Royal dockyard. It was sold to a local entrepreneur who tried and failed to operate it as a hotel. After some time , it was sold to the Church of Scientology who have used this massive place as storage for the local org for 11 years now. It’s in a poor state of repair – informed estimates say that it’s now about 5 years from deriliction.
There were a few months (covered in detail in my previous posts here) when it seemed as if the place was going to be renovated in time for the commemoration of the Mayflower leaving Plymouth for the New World. Planning permissions were obtained, and asbestos removed from the structure by professional contractors. The pandemic knocked that on the head. The only notable event since then has been video from inside the place taken by a group of ‘urban explorers‘, which shows the poor state of the interior.
I’d taken pictures of some minor changes made in the exterior of the place when we noticed that a car had just taken its third circuit around the building (there is a narrow – public – access road around the back between it and the dockyard wall).
We were then ‘confronted’ by a Scientologist whom I recognised. It’s strange behaviour for a member of a Church which is opening in a community to demand to know what you are doing just looking at their building, but standard operating procedure for Scientology.
Had he been shooting video, when he was driving around and around? It’s policy, but I don’t know. I’m already well known to them in any case and we returned the favour later, so the only question is who got the most out of their effort.
Video after the break it’s only 30 seconds, and really bad but it shows just how touchy they are about the place.
He addressed my friend, who is better at dealing with such things than I am.
I’ll fix the sound later – his end of the conversation is too faint.
He initially demanded to know why we were there, andwhat were doing . He calmed down a lot when my friend took out his’phone and started to video the exchange, so it’s not any kind of dramatic confrontation. It only lass 30 seconds too. However, it’s a poor example of ‘confront’. He was clearly outclassed.
Just in case his comrades at the org think he had driven us off, see the images and observations below.
What’s New? Not a Lot
They had gone completely over the top in boarding over the completely insecure area that I believe was the point of entry for the urban explorers. They must have got in trouble over that, because it showed Scientology in such a bad light. It’s a poor effort too.
There was a lot of rubbish tipped around the back ( on Scientology’s land making them legally liable for it’s disposal). You can also see that the graffiti on the doors has been painted over.
The rubbish on Scientology land included empty tins of paint – coincidentally exactly the same selection of paint that was recently used to redecorate the interior of the active org, miles away in Plymouth’s shopping hub.
The only other change was a sign added by Dockyard police sincemy last visit, making it clear that this was an area in which the flying of drones was strictly prohibited, on account of its proximity to the Royal Dockyard its warships and other secure facilities.
People have suggested to me online that a drone overflight would establish just how bad the condition of the roof of the putative org building is, or might be done during a future ‘grand opening’.
For the record, I’ve always told them that this is a Very Bad Idea, and it is. Any attempt would likely result in serious consequences, including criminal charges. If the org ever is renovated and reopened, please don’t anyone even think of it. Seriously.
It was around the back after photographing the inert Volunteer Minister van (which hasn’t moved in years) that we were first passed by our stony-faced Scientologist. He took three trips around the building before he built up the confidence to ‘confront’, and that has resulted in this post.
PS: thanks to the author of a comment below for this information about the van.
I looked up the van, and it is declared SORN and MOT expired June 2017, so good job it hasn’t moved for a while. On the other hand, shame a perfectly serviceable van is rotting away like the building.
For your information, if you’re not British: in the UK cars must pay a tax for being on the road (officially “Road Fund Licence”, but referred to as “car tax”). If you store a vehicle off the public road and make a SORN (a Statutory Off-Road Notification to the licencing authority, you don’t have to pay. You can’t legally drive the vehicle, though.
The MOT is an exacting test of the safety of all vehicle systems that must be taken every year after a car is 3 years old. Fail, and you you will useuall have the all the faults fixed or scrap the car it that’s uneconomical. The other option is to make a SORN and store if off-road until you can get around to fixing it.
So, that yellow van has been parked there for 4 years now. This is not good for a vehicle’s health, especially in the wet, windy weather that you get not far from the river Tamar.
This is typical Scientology. Every org is required to have a ‘Volunteer Minister’ yellow van. They have ticked that box, and nobody seems to mind that it can’t go anywhere.
Does this activity mean that Scientology is restarting the Ideal Org project?
It was just a coincience that our friendly neighbourhood Scientologist was there to store leaflets and literature that they can’t use in the building, or just check that people hadn’t entered the place again. The urban explorers are very careful not to damage anything, but squatters might not be so considerate.
However, the IAS event is traditionally held every year in October and it is attended by the ‘leader’ of Scientology, David Miscavige. Ideal Org completions in the UK have been timed to take place so that he can perform the ‘grand opening’ while he is here as he did in Birmingham, way back in 2017.
If contractors got right on the job, it could be done in time and, the way mass vaccination is going here, we can be cautiously optomistic that restrictions will have been lifted by then – at least enough for a ‘grand opening to take place’.
Scientology is going to need a relaunch, post-pandemic, and the nature of that depends entirely on the whim of David Miscavige who missed his chance at a ‘religious freedom’ theme for his speech, when the Mayflower events were cancelled.
Until then, it’s been 11 years since Scientology bought the building, likely only another 5 until dereliction… and counting.