A councillor is urging the Government to commit to a new court complex in Sunderland after the Ministry of Justice confirmed that no decision has been taken on whether to go ahead with the project.
Plans were first drawn up in 2009 to build a new combined Crown, County and Magistrates Court on empty land at Farringdon Row, next to the Vaux site and Galleys Gill.
With work finally starting on the Vaux site next door we desperately need to know whether the Government are ever going to build a new court.Niall Hodson
The court complex would replace the city’s Magistrates Court building in Keel Square, as well as replacing Sunderland County Court on John Street.
The development would also provide a Crown Court in Sunderland for the first time.
It is expected that the combined court complex would attract new jobs in the legal sector in Sunderland city centre.
Despite assurances from the Government back in 2011 that the project was going ahead, work has not started and the site between Deptford and the city centre still lies empty.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Millfield, Niall Hodson, has now teamed up with Lord John Shipley, spokesman for the Northern Powerhouse, who raised the issue in the House of Lords by asking the Government “when they expect work to begin on the new court complex in Sunderland under the Court Reform Programme.”
Responding for the Government, Justice Minister Lord Edward Faulks said: “No decisions have been taken regarding the court estate in Sunderland.
“Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service keeps its operational estate under review to make sure that it aligns with the delivery of reformed court and tribunal services.
“The reform of court and tribunal services which is underway will provide greater access to the courts using modern technology, reducing the need for attendance at court.”
Coun Hodson said: “Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to go ahead with this project so that we can have a modern court in Sunderland that is fit for purpose, and that attracts new jobs to our city centre.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Ministry of Justice have been keeping us in limbo for years about whether this project will ever get the go ahead.
“With work finally starting on the Vaux site next door we desperately need to know whether the Government are ever going to build a new court.
“If they aren’t, they should come clean so that we can start to draw up alternative plans for this key city centre redevelopment site.”