MPs demand answers over future of long-delayed new court building for Sunderland

Bridget Phillipson.
Bridget Phillipson.
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Wearside MPs have called for action to deliver a new court building for Sunderland.

During Justice Questions in the Commons yesterday, Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, raised the issue of the long-delayed construction of a new Sunderland Centre for Justice.

Julie Elliott.

Julie Elliott.

Along with Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, the pair have been campaigning on this issue since the Houghton Magistrates Court was closed on the understanding that a new modern courts complex was to be built in Sunderland.

Over the last six years, Ms Phillipson has asked successive Justice Ministers to explain the government’s plans for the centre but has yet to be given a commitment as to when – or even if – a decision will be made to start the rebuild.

Speaking after Justice Questions, she said: "In the Commons, I once again raised the disgraceful delay in the construction of a modern courts complex in Sunderland.

"After spending £2million of taxpayer money buying land and drawing up plans for a new Sunderland Centre for Justice at Farringdon Row, the Secretary of State has a duty to ensure that money was not wasted. That’s why today I asked the new Courts Minister, Oliver Heald QC MP, to meet urgently with Julie and myself to discuss how to make progress.

"I was pleased to hear the Justice Secretary respond that the minister would be happy to meet with us. Julie and I will now be contacting him immediately to ensure that a meeting takes places as soon as possible and the people of Sunderland are finally provided with the court complex they deserve."

Julie Elliott added: "A new Centre for Justice in Sunderland is absolutely vital to plans to regenerate the city centre and create jobs in the local area.

"Unfortunately, years of uncertainty over the future of the Farringdon Row site have really affected the city and I am deeply disappointed that no progress has been made so far.

"Bridget and I have been pressing the Ministry of Justice to get spades in the ground on this project for over six years now, so I am glad to hear the Justice Secretary promise us a meeting with the new Courts Minister. If the government is really serious about the so-called Northern Powerhouse scheme, it must prioritise critical infrastructure projects such as this."