The Church of Scientology is to open a new multi-million pound regional headquarters in Birmingham.
The well-known Grade II-listed Pitmaston building in Moor Green Lane, Moseley, was snapped up by the church for £4.25 million two years ago.
It has made the former insurance offices into the headquarters for its Midland operation because a rocketing membership has seen it outgrow premises in Ethel Street, in Birmingham city centre.
The church, which has previously denied accusations that it is a cult, lists Hollywood celebrities Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers.
Church leaders claim that membership has grown in the West Midlands by 25 per cent in the last 10 years and an estimated 27,000 people have taken part in services.
Scientologists are now in talks with the Birmingham City Council over altering the Pitmaston building’s use from an office block to place of worship.
It is expected that the building will be reopened as early as July and will be used to deliver courses to 160 people at a time in its ornate hall, while smaller seminars will be delivered in oak-panelled board rooms at the 1920s-built premises.
Marianne Rowell, one of Scientology’s senior figures, said she hoped to attract a big name celebrity disciple like socialite Peaches Geldof to the opening.
“The new church will be the main centre serving the Birmingham and West Midlands area, and we expect that many hundreds of people will attend religious services there,” said a spokesman.
The building has lain empty since the Church of Scientology had bought it.
Scientologists have allayed fears about the building’s period features and promise that none of its character will be lost.
They also plan to hold an open day to answer questions about their faith.
“The building will be renovated to meet our needs while maintaining and enhancing the structure and character of the building,” said the spokesman.
“We make all of our buildings available to the wider community for charitable events, meetings and interfaith gatherings.
“If there is a need for a venue and we can help, we will be very happy to do so.”