Fears over future of new Sunderland court complex

A view of the work to reroute Livingstone Road and St Mary's Way, Sunderland across the former Vaux brewery site creating a new pedestrian area in front of the Magistrates Court.'Sunderland Magistrates
A view of the work to reroute Livingstone Road and St Mary's Way, Sunderland across the former Vaux brewery site creating a new pedestrian area in front of the Magistrates Court.'Sunderland Magistrates
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THE future of a multimillion-pound court complex remains uncertain.

 The development – to include new magistrates’, county and crown courts – is earmarked for land opposite the existing court building, which is more than 100 years old.

But despite the plans being given the go-ahead in 2009, the project has never started.

“It remains the position that no final decisions have been made about the future use of the land,” Justice Minister Shailesh Vara told Parliament.

She said the architects’ fees were paid under the last government but did not say when the land purchase took place.

Industry publication the Law Gazette has reported that nearly £2million has been spent on an “urgent” court-building programme.

Some £1,086,303 has already been paid in architectural fees, with £876,353 paid to Sunderland City Council for the land.

MPs in Sunderland have been campaigning for progress as a matter of urgency.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, has said: “The Government’s court rebuilding programme is in chaos. Repeatedly, ministers have claimed that the work was going ahead.

“Despite spending nearly £2million purchasing the land and commissioning architects, confusion remains over whether the rebuilding will proceed.” Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has previously said the current magistrates’ court is not fit for purpose and victims of crime deserve facilities fit for the 21st century.

The complex is also seen as a vital part of the regeneration of the city.

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said its position remained unchanged.

“HMCTS keeps the use of its estate under review in order to make the best use of resources and facilities for users and taxpayers alike.

“Any new investment proposals, such as the Sunderland scheme, would be part of the considerations for this wider reform work,” he added.

Plans had been mooted to turn the existing magistrates’ court into a heritage centre in 2017.
The newly-formed Sunderland Music and Culture Trust, led by Paul Callaghan, aired the plans on its website as part of a drive to revitalise the city centre.