Scientologists to build large church in £1million Plymouth building

The Herald, UK/November 12, 2009

Scientologists in Plymouth are planning to buy a £1million property in the city centre and convert it into a church.

They say the "bold" and "prominent" building is being planned as the popularity of the religion grows in Plymouth and the South West.

Two undisclosed buildings are currently being looked at in the centre of Plymouth.

Marianne Rowell, spokeswomen for the Church of Scientology, said the plan was to buy the building by the end of the year, and open it as a church and resource centre by May or June next year.

A planning application to convert the building will be submitted to Plymouth City Council early next year.

She said the current Church of Scientology in Ebrington Street in the city centre was "too small" for the needs of its followers.

It has around 3,000 to 5,000 sq ft of floor space. The new church will boast around 60,000 sq ft.

"It will be a very prominent and bold building in the city centre of Plymouth," said Marianne, who also revealed the plan is at an advanced stage.

"We are close to getting the money needed to get it. It has been raised almost entirely through donations and fundraising events organised by local people.

"The new building will be a huge increase in size for us. It is being created because of demand for scientology in Plymouth and the surrounding area.

"More and more people are becoming followers of scientology and we need increased space."

Marianne said in the past two years alone there had been an increase of 8,00 to 1,000 Church of Scientology followers in Plymouth.

She said there were now 12,000 across Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall.

The number of scientologists in the UK is approximately 102,000.

Once open, the new Church of Scientology building is likely to boast large signage and feature displays and an information centre on the religion, a chapel for events and Sunday services, a cafe, and meeting and career rooms.

Marianne said other groups in the community would also be invited to use the facilities.

Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and defines itself as 'the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life'.

Among its celebrity followers are actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, singer Beck and the voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright.

It has been the subject of much criticism in the UK over the past few years.

Protesters have previously campaigned against the religion's presence in Plymouth.

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