Church of Scientology HQ plan for Moseley approved
Plans to convert a mansion house in Birmingham into a £6m headquarters for the Church of Scientology have been approved by the city council.
The church is to convert the Grade II listed Pitmaston House in Moor Green Lane, Moseley into a religious education centre and place of worship.
The building has been empty since the church bought it for £4.2m in 2007.
The new building will have a 140-seat chapel, a training centre and about 40 offices, it said.
One wing of the building will be named the Hubbard Guidance Centre, after the science fiction author, L Ron Hubbard, who founded the church in 1952.
The church, which has previously denied accusations of being a cult, said its following in the West Midlands had increased by 25% in the past 10 years.
It said about 27,000 people had taken part in religious services in the region in that time.
Graeme Wilson, UK public affairs director for the church, said work would start within the next six months and finish in 2014.
He said: "The project will involve skilled crafts to sensitively restore marble and oak panelling, as well as structural work to repair damage to bring back the fine aspects of the building.
"We know the building is important to Moseley's history and we are keen to work with local people and conservation specialists to maintain the heritage and natural habitats."
Birmingham City Council approved the plans at a meeting on Thursday, despite receiving 10 letters of objection which it said were based "on a number of issues".
They included one citing the "Church of Scientology was not a recognised religion in this country", it said.
Conservation group, The Moseley Society, said it was not worried about the religion moving to the area but was concerned about the amount of extra traffic the centre could create.
The secretary of the society, Fiona Adams, said: "It's still an unknown quantity how busy this new centre will become.
"It's near to one of the most [statistically] dangerous junctions in Moseley, on Russell Road, which is used a lot by traffic especially during rush hour."