JULIE ELLIOTT: Hope at last for new courts for Sunderland

Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

Sunderland Magistrates' Court.

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Justice for Wearside could finally be served following a long-running campaign by Labour MPs for a modern courts complex.

I joined forces with Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson back in 2010 to fight for a new multi-million-pound Centre of Justice at Farringdon Row but, until now, plans had stalled.

This week, however, we met with new Courts Minister Sir Oliver Heald to press the case, we were told that he was ‘actively working on a solution’ – at long last we feel that there will be movement on this issue.

A decision is now expected to be announced next March, but Bridget and I will still be keeping a close eye on the situation.

Our old magistrates’ court is still a marvel of Edwardian splendour but, at 109-years-old, it is sadly no longer fit for purpose.

Sunderland needs a modern court complex.

Investment in our city, however, should not just be limited to a new court complex.

Urgent funding for transport is also needed – including Sunderland’s unreliable and outdated Metro system.

Last week, during a debate on Transport North East at Westminster Hall, I called for extra Metro funding.

Just 24-hours later, a whole day of disruptions and cancellations underlined this necessity.

But it is not just the Metro which needs updating, it is also Sunderland Station. There has recently been enormous investment in Newcastle Central Station, but Sunderland needs investment too.

Our station was a hub of great importance when it opened in 1879, but now it does not even have a public toilet, and the rest of the site urgently needs upgrading as well.

Influence from the Government needs to be exerted. Local authorities and Nexus have already set aside significant sums for their part of the investment. It is now down to Network Rail to address the issue.