Plymouth’s Local Newspaper Notices the Deriliction of Plymouth’s Ideal Org Building – And More Urban Explorers.

Plymouth’s local newspaper (the Plymouth Herald) has finally noticed that the building that the Church of Scientology has claimed will be renovated by them Any Day Now is still derilict after 11 years lying idle. They have published a short article about, including an online version (their website is titled “PlymouthLive”).

The lack of progess in renovating Plymouth’s ideal org is something that I’ve covered extensively on this blog over a period of years, with many photos and videos. So I’m pleased they have finally noticed.

The newspaper article includes two still images and one very short video (heres a much more extensive video survery). The first still is sourced from Scientology itself – it’s the architect’s rendering of what the place is supposed to look like when complete.. The second is sourced from Instagram (see above) so reporters might not even have visited the place.

However, it’s something – more after the break,

According to the article a local Councillor and a local MP have stated that Scientology should get on with renovating the building, or sell it to someone who will.

That sounds encouraging. However, they don’t have any powers to enforce such a demand. In my opinion, there’s an element of political posturing, aimed at the voters in the area (who are tired of living near such an eyesore). Here’s the first part of the text:

**********

A city MP and councillor have urged the Church of Scientology to either “invest or sell” the Royal Fleet Club which is being blighted by fly-tipping.

The Church, founded by Sci-Fi writer L Ron Hubbard, bought the Royal Fleet Hotel – formerly the Royal Fleet Club – from Midlands-based businessman, Kailash Suri, in the summer of 2010 for an estimated £1m.

They then outlined ambitious plans for the 114-year-old site in Morice Square in Devonport, with promises to reinvigorate the building, invest £2.5m and create a library, chapel, information centre, book store, course and lecture rooms, offices and a cafe.

However, by 2016 PlymouthLive was reporting how the historic – albeit unlisted – building had not been developed and there was little in the way of information about its future.

By April 2019 agents for the property admitted it was derelict and in a poor state of repair with water ingress seriously damaging the fabric of the building. A planning application at that time noted the council’s response to the Church’s proposals was one of “overall support for the proposed refurbishment and re-use of the Royal Fleet building as a church and place of theological education”.

The following month, Plymouth City Council approved planning permission to convert it into a South West hub for the controversial religion.

However, little has changed over the past three years, leading to the building becoming a magnet for fly-tippers.

**********

I’ve previously covered slow decay of the building on this blog, also their (relatively) recent planning application and that application’s successful outcome , including the plans.

It’s actually the second permission that has been granted. The first was allowed to lapse after two years of complete inaction, during which fundraising continued.

After the 2019 application was approved, some work did take place – specifically the removal of asbestos containing materials from the fabric of the building. This was required by the Council and was essential safety measure required before building work commenced.

Rubbish that has been dumped behind the building over a period of years. The Herald blames “fly tippers” (peple who illegally dump rubbish rather than pay for its disposal). Actually, a lot of the rubbish on the site has been stripped out of the building, so presumably this has been done by Scientologists. More About this later.

The article continues:

**********

As a result Devonport’s MP, Luke Pollard, recently wrote to the Church of Scientology asking them to invest in the Royal Fleet Club or sell it to a new owner, after local residents raised concerns about the deteriorating state of the building.

MR Pollard said the Royal Fleet Club was one of Devonport’s most historic buildings, having survived not only the Blitz but also the post-war redevelopment of Devonport.

He said the building was now a major concern for local residents with blatant fly tipping around the back of the building as well as broken windows, making the large property a potential fire risk.

Mr Pollard told PlymouthLive: “Devonport is a proud community and the Royal Fleet Club is a building of importance to our community. I want to see the Church of Scientology invest in the building, bringing new construction jobs to Devonport.

“But if their plans have changed because of the pandemic then I want them to sell the building to a new owner who can restore this building. I fear that in its current state Devonport is only one fire away from losing this important building forever.

“I want to see more investment in Marlborough Street and Devonport to give this community what it deserves: levelling up and investment. As we emerge from the pandemic there needs to be a clear plan for this building. I hope to meet with the owners soon to discuss the future plans for this building. Leaving it to rot is not an option that Devonport will stomach any longer. My message is clear: invest or sell.”

**********

My theory is that a lot of money was spent on obtaining planning permission and clearing out the asbestos in order that renovations would be complete for the 400th Anniversary of the departure of the “Mayflower” from Plymouth to the new world. More specifically, the ‘grand opening’ would provide David Miscavige, the ‘leader’ of Scientology with an opportunity to make a propaganda speech about ‘religious freedom’.

Of course, the pandemic intervened. Building work stopped, and has never restarted. That boat has sailed, and Miscavige seems to have lost interest in Plymouth as a consequence. I’ve written about the apparent collapse of the project here

The video survey mentioned above shows the prominent place this historic building occupies in the local community. Mr Pollard’s message to Scientology can be expressed more directly – “shit or get off the pot”. I’m hoping he can make a difference. I’m not holding my breath, though.

The article continues with extracts from Mr Pollard’s interactions with Scientology and then discusses what work has been done recently.

**********

The Church of Scientology told PlymouthLive that it had already taken action, with professional contractors working on the exterior and an army of volunteers.

The spokesperson said: “With the recent easing of lockdown restrictions, Church of Scientology parishioners along with professional contractors have been working in the Royal Fleet Club to prepare for the upcoming renovations.

**********

Promises like this have been made since Scientology bought the place – great things are going to happen Any Day Now. They have never come to pass.

Back in 2014, Lisa Coffey, the Church of Scientology spokesperson who was briefly interviewed by the Herald after Scientology bought the bulding, responded to a reporter’s question with the following statement:

It’s quite a long process because we want to ensure that we get the scheme just right. It’s a historic building, so it’s important to keep the historical features. Ultimately we want to restore it to its former glory.

A lot of money is being spent on the design phase, but unfortunately we have no set date at the moment. There are about ten stages to opening a new Church of Scientology building, and we are now at about stage five or six!

She was less forthcoming on the question of when it would be finished.

Lisa said that the current main focus for the Church of Scientology in the UK was on opening a new site in Birmingham. “After the Birmingham site is open we’ll be looking at Plymouth and Manchester, she said. Once Birmingham is open, we will have more of an idea of when Plymouth will open. We’re desperate to open it soon, bu

The Building in Bimingham opened in 2017, an event I also covered on this blog. We are now more than half-way through 2021…

Here’s a final extract from the article.

The Church of Scientology told PlymouthLive that it had already taken action, with professional contractors working on the exterior and an army of volunteers.

The building is set up with alarms and linked to the local police station to ensure it is fully protected

The ‘army’ of volunteers claim is questionable. Their own website celebrated the Scientologists who have entered this unsafe building to do minor demolition work – for example stripping out fixtures. Their safety, qualifications or experience in this kind of work are not discussed.

This post reveals that their ‘volunteer army’ really consists of a handful of people .

There’s another possible explanation for the new security measures such as “alarms to the police station” which Scientology now claims to have. In august 2020, I published a video made by ‘Urban Explorers’ – people who enter abandoned buildings without doing any damage and… well… explore them.

This showed the awful, run-down state of the interior and piles of Scientology literature that the org does not seem to be able to give away.

Recently I came across another one

I would suggest that alarms may have been put in place because the owners are humiliated by these invasions. They show the terrible state of the interior, and local Scientologists probably been disciplined for this bad PR, on the orders of ‘head office’ too.

In conclusion, I welcome the political pressure that is being placed upon Scientology in Plymouth, but I seriously doubt it will make any difference to the chances of renovation work resuming. This saga has been in play for the last eleven years and is marked by many unfulfilled promises.

5 thoughts on “Plymouth’s Local Newspaper Notices the Deriliction of Plymouth’s Ideal Org Building – And More Urban Explorers.

    • The planing application included a statement that up to 300 people would occasionally visit the place.

      That the max capacity of the renovated building.

      This made me wonder if they were planning a regging centre by the sea.

      Plymouth is a pleasant coastal location, with great scenery, in contrast with the other UK orgs, which are mostly in urban environments.

      Plymouth is a pleasant holiday destination, and the building is right on the border with Cornwall, which is even more so.

      The architects have created an open- plan design ideal for crowding people in and manipulating them to donate.

      A big crowd,away from home, in a nice location would be more vulnerable to pressure to donate than people struggling in their org to make ends meet.

      I don’t know if UK Scientologists would fall for such invitations but it is a possibility.

      If so, the local members would become glorified janitors, since the Sea Org would come down from Saint Hill to take over during ‘events’.

  1. Parking and access from remote locations seems to have been an oversight when buying this building. Perhaps the UK is different, but in the US such a public or even a private facility would need adequate parking for users, or public trnsportation to deliver people to the front door. The Fleet Club does not appear to have any significant car parking or even public transport nearby. It was designed for the era in which walking, or public transport by horse carriage, were the normal means of getting around this urban area.

    • I was surprised that the council didn’t refuse on the grounds of insufficient parking. The org provides a nominal 8 spaces in the gated area behind the place, where the VM van is. That’s not enough for a fraction of their claims.

      However, Scienotlogy has hired an expensive legal firm which specilises in planning applications. If they are refused, they will appeal to central government and likely win. Local government here isn’t like State government in the US. It’s a small affair with very limited powers.

      If the Council had the power, they would have refused because Councillors know how unpopular a Scientology presence is with their voters, but they are limited by the law.

      There is public transport in the form of busses and bus stops nearby. There is also community parking for the shops. I can see that, if it ever does open, the first dispute with the org being about their blocking parking meant for the shops. You can see the immediate area in a video, here https://scicrit.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/7352/

      It’s also in what was once a seriously deprived area some distance from their present org in the shopping cente of the city – almost as if they gave up on body routing when they bought it, and settled for a impressive building that would play to internal propaganda instead.

      The wider area is now covered with social housing, where it was once a wasteland, so they have accidentally acquired a local population – which is already hostile.

      The 2011 census (new figures from the 2021 census coming soon) recorded 28 Scientologists in the wider area. My observations confirm that they can draw that many in a pinch – but the pandemic has revealed that the harcore consists of around eight individuals who keep the org going.

      I don’t see Plymouth Ideal Org ever opening now. They missed the anniversary of the departure of the “Mayflower” due to the pandemic, and I think the only reason they made an effort is that Dave could have delivered a ‘Relgious Freedom’ speech. That ship has (literally) sailed, and Dave is now otherwise occupied with the upcoming Masterson trial.

      As for transport infrastucture… this small island has been continuously occupied for millenia, and is now quite crowded. Road planners work with what they have, and are very good at optomising traffic flow in an organic layout that would baffle anyone used to a grid system 🙂

  2. Hi
    Pls remember that googlebot i blind and a name like 0_whatsapp-image-2021-07-08-at-165832jpeg.jpg does not tell the story. Pls help google to know a little bit more about the images by naming them correctly. Scientology Plymouth … and so on..

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.