This article on the upcoming Church of Scientology of Plymouth appeared in the Plymouth Herald.
SCIENTOLOGISTS are still working on plans for Devonport’s iconic Royal Fleet Hotel claiming it is important to get the scheme “just right”.
The Church of Scientology bought the historic building for about £1million in June 2010 and revealed plans to spend £2.5million on renovating it to house a library, chapel, information centre, book store, course and lecture rooms, offices and a cafe.
But a year-and-half on a planning application for the 111-year-old Morice Square building is still yet to be submitted to civic planners.
“We are currently still in the planning phase,” said Lisa Coffey, community affairs director for the Church of Scientology Plymouth.
“With all of the buildings for our churches being purchased and renovated around the world we take great care to preserve their style and character when restoring them to a high standard.
“The iconic nature of the Fleet Club and the fact that it has played a big part in Plymouth’s maritime history all adds to the importance of getting things just right.
“We want the building’s significance to Plymouth to be reflected in the renovation.
“It is this attention to detail which is taking some time to implement.”
After buying the Royal Fleet Hotel – formerly the Royal Fleet Club – from Midlands-based businessman Kailash Suri in the summer of 2010, The Church of Scientology outlined ambitious plans for the site.
As well as promising to fully refurbish the premises, the scientologists also said they are hoping to employ 150 staff to run the site which they believe will be attended by “tens of thousands” of people every year.
Scientologists had been searching for properties in Plymouth for three years prior to buying the Royal Fleet Hotel.
They said they were looking to open a “bold” and “prominent” new church which would replace the current Church of Scientology base in Ebrington Street which has been deemed as being “too small” for the needs of scientologists.
The Morice Square site was purchased in 1900 and construction of the building was completed in 1902.
It survived a direct hit from a German bomb in 1940 and became a refuge centre for families whose houses were destroyed in the Blitz.
In 1949, it became the Royal Fleet Club.
It was run as a charitable trust, but in February 2008, with donations dwindling and legal guidelines preventing refurbishment, the trustees were forced to place the building on the market. It became known as the Royal Fleet Hotel in recent years.