A new chapter has officially opened in the life of one of Plymouth's grandest buildings.
The Royal Fleet Club once oozed class and wealth as a luxury hotel visited by top Navy brass.
But certainty over the future of the Devonport landmark has been lacking in the decade since it was acquired by an unusual buyer - in the former of the Church of Scientology - in a business deal worth £1million.
Now after years of virtual silence there's movement on the cards at the former lavish boutique guest house, which started out life in 1902 as a bolt hole for Plymouth sailors and merchant types.
Gilpin Demolition has been drafted in to internally modify the building prior to its full blown conversion into a super place of worship for the religious movement - plans that were given the green light by city planners in May 2019 despite local sceptism.
It comes despite fears raised this week that the presence of demolition crews meant one of Plymouth's treasured builds would soon be consigned to history.
In a series of Facebook video clips, eagle-eyed Plymouth neighbour Shev Al-kazraji said: "...so yet another example of Plymouth losing one of its historical landmarks.
"To be completely honest with you, this will depreciate Devonport.
"This is a huge building and has been here for many, many years and to lose it would be to lose part of the community. Thanks Scientology - we really appreciate the demolition."
Yet public papers made available by civic chiefs reveals the building will not be ripped down and the main focus is restoring it to its former glory.
Scientology applicants have declared they wished to carry out the 'repair, refurbishment and change of use of the Royal Fleet Club to enable its conversion to a place of worship and religious instruction, with ancillary communal and administrative uses.'
'Associated external alterations, landscaping works and various signage is also proposed,' they added as part of a bundle of forms submitted to the council.
Officials will now, in the months ahead, storm ahead with the £2.5million transformation of the Morice Street club into a South West hub for the movement.
It will become a venue boasting a library, chapel, information centre, book store, course and lecture rooms, offices and a cafe.
A number of spaces and facilities will be made available to the public and space will be set aside for the practice of Scientology.
A planned Public Information Centre will include displays "containing more than 500 films, presenting the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion".
An Information Centre will lift the lid on humanitarian programs that Scientology supports, include a worldwide 'human rights education initiative' a far-reaching drug education, prevention and rehabilitation program; a global network of literacy and learning centres, as well as a Scientology Volunteer Minister program.
The chapel will "accommodate Scientology congregational gatherings that include services, weddings and naming ceremonies."
It would "also host community-wide events, open to members of all denominations".
Work this month is finally underway after the visionaries fulfilled planning conditions by filing reports about how it would best manage drainage and neutralise land contamination.
Outlining their decision to support the plans, council officers said the proposal 'refurbishes and brings back into use an important landmark building, the proposed uses of which are not considered to be harmful to amenity or the character and appearance of the area.'
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