Sunderland Tories defend Government plan to revamp city's magistrates court
Conservatives in Sunderland have defended the Government's decision to renovate the city's existing court building, rather than create a new justice centre on Wearside.
The Echo reported this week how Justice Minister Lucy Frazer revealed in a letter to city MPs Bridget Phillipson and Julie Elliott that an assessment by HM Courts & Tribunals Service Property Board concluded that investment in the Magistrates’ Court is considered to be more feasible than a new build option, which was earmarked for a site at Farringdon Row.
It added that there is a commitment to reinvest £825,000 that had been earmarked for a new build project in upgrading the court.
MPs Ms Elliott and Ms Phillipson have slammed the announcement, saying Wearsiders have been “badly let down” by the length of time it took the Government to make the final decision.
But today, Conservative leader on Sunderland City Council, Councillor Robert Oliver, said he thinks it is right move to upgrade the current courthouse as areas such as Farringdon Row should be “private sector-led”.
“Sunderland Conservatives welcome the promise of government funding for the magistrates court and back the decision to renovate the existing building,” said Coun Oliver.
“The city has waited a long time for investment in the building which was never forthcoming during the thirteen years of a Labour government.
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“The building occupies a prime site in the city centre, to move to a new location would give rise to concern about a change of use or standing empty.
“The fixtures and fittings within the building are steeped in history and tradition and are best preserved by renovating and updating them.”
He added: “Sunderland Conservatives take the view that the Vaux site and Farringdon Row should be private sector-led rather than relying on public funds.
“Putting the magistrates court on the prime development site in the city would shut out private investment by reducing the available land.
“Potential tenants might also have concerns as to how attractive it would be to have a private company office next to a magistrates court.”
An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokeswoman said that a total of £5.7million will be spent over the next decade on the upgrade, creating two new courtrooms, improving access, redecorating to provide a “better space for all users”.
The spokeswoman added: “This is the most efficient and cost-effective option - ensuring the building better meets everyone’s needs while delivering savings for the taxpayer.”