Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Derelict Site Set to Be New North Base for Church

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Derelict Site Set to Be New North Base for Church

Article excerpt

Byline: DANIEL HOLLAND Local Democracy Reporter

THE Church of Scientology is finally pushing ahead with plans to open a new North East headquarters at a derelict nursing home in Gateshead.

The former Windmill Hills nursing home has lain empty for around a decade after being purchased by the church in 2007 for a reported PS1.5m.

Gateshead Council pressed the church into carrying out emergency repair works at the prominent site earlier this year and plans have now been lodged with the authority for a major redevelopment of the listed building, which is in Half Moon Lane on the edge of the town centre.

The proposals include further repairs to the Victorian building's historic features and construction of four extensions to help form a chapel and a cafe. It has previously been claimed t the derelict building had become a magnet for drug addicts and vandals.

The Church of Scientology, which counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers, teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature and offers believers a life-improvement strategy it calls dianetics.

A planning application sent to the council said: "This existing prominent building has suffered from neglect and the cost increase a nursing home provider would incur to renovate and operate out of over those of a more modest modern purpose-built residential care home would be significant.

"Although there is perhaps a case to be answered for with the continued use class due to the growing age of the population, it is further difficult to justify this with regards to the running costs of heating such a Grade II listed building and the current modern economic climate.

Following another previous planning approval for the building and site for dwelling houses, the appetite/market for apartments has somewhat dwindled. …

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