Former office block to be handed to Scientologists

Birmingham Mail, UK/October 6, 2008

The controversial Church of Scientology is set to complete a multi-million pound deal for a huge new HQ in a leafy Birmingham street within weeks, it emerged today.

Leaders of the organisation have written to members to confirm that the handover of Moseley's Grade II listed Pitmaston building will take place on October 24.

The Birmingham Mail exclusively revealed the sect - famed for its celebrity disciples like Tom Cruise and a belief in aliens - was ready to stump up about £4.25 million for the former office block on Moor Green Lane in April.

Councillors were reassured at a meeting with the church's leaders last week that the building will not be altered and say they are pleased that the deal will end years of uncertainty over the site once earmarked by developers for luxury apartments.

Scientology has found itself mired in controversy in recent years after being labelled a "cult" by critics - a claim it has always denied.

Coun Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem, Moseley & Kings Heath) said: "The Scientologists asked me to come down for a meeting at Pitmaston, which they are using as part of an arrangement with the current owner.

"They explained that they had to wait until they had enough cash to buy the building outright.

"I was reassured that there will be no extensions or any use of the building for residential purposes and I'm quite pleased about that. Instead it will be used as offices and as a church.

"They have certainly got themselves in the good books of residents by clearing up some alleyways of litter in the area.

"I'm also aware that they have been to residents' meetings and delivered letters to a lot of houses on Russell Road."

In the Scientology newsletter, members are pictured wearing hard hats proudly stand in front of a "roll of honour" which shows their status, achieved by donating cash for the sale of Pitmaston.

Nobody from the Church of Scientology was available for comment.

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