Court to join list of derelict build­ings

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Front Page - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ @oliv­er­clayRWWN

ACOUNCILLOR has slammed the Gov­ern­ment over the up­com­ing clo­sure of Hal­ton Mag­is­trates Court in Run­corn and warned that a ‘brain drain’ of so­lic­i­tors could fol­low.

Cllr Dave Thomp­son said the build­ing’s demise will be­come the fourth va­cant site blight­ing the area, join­ing East Lane House, Cas­tle View House and the par­tially used Grosvenor House in the grow­ing list of empty prop­er­ties.

He said Run­corn had hosted a court for hun­dreds of years and its clo­sure ‘makes no sense at all’.

The Hal­ton Lea ward Labour coun­cil­lor laid into the Min­istry Of Jus­tice’s (MOJ) rea­son­ing for go­ing ahead with shut­ting the site, say­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s own re­search showed it was among the busiest courts in the North West.

He added that the MOJ’s fig­ures re­vealed it was ‘very cost ef­fec­tive’, with an out­lay of £43 per hear­ing com­pared to the na­tional av­er­age of £150.

Ninety jobs based at the court will be lost from the town, he warned.

Its clo­sure has led him to con­clude that the move was mo­ti­vated by want­ing to keep other courts open.

He said: “I be­lieve they wanted rid of our lo­cal court sim­ply to jus­tify pro­pos­als for keep­ing a bet­ter utilised court at War­ring­ton and tri­bunal ser­vices at St He­lens, beef­ing up the use of other courts by mak­ing Hal­ton res­i­dents travel out of the bor- ● ough.

“They claim funds from the pub­lic purse will be saved but this is un­likely to hap­pen in my view.

“Gov­ern­ment guid­ance re­quired the MOJ to dis­pose of its as­sets within six months of be­ing de­clared sur­plus for hous­ing and within three years for all other prop­er­ties.

“I think there are poor prospects for the empty court build­ing be­ing oc­cu­pied, cost­ing tax­pay­ers to keep it empty for years to come.

“It is now likely to join East Lane House, Grosvenor House and Cas­tle View be­com­ing another va­cant eye­sore.

“There has been court in Run­corn for cen­turies, the loss of the court is likely to have very se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

“The coun­cil will now need to fac­tor in added time and costs for out of bor­ough travel when han­dling so­cial ser­vices cases.

“I am fear­ful that we might see a brain drain of le­gal ex­per­tise as firms of so­lic­i­tors nor­mally base them­selves close to courts for ease of ac­cess.

He added: “A Her Majesty’s Courts And Tri­bunals Ser­vice spokesper­son has pre­vi­ously told the Weekly News that clos­ing un­der­used and di­lap­i­dated court build­ings will al­low them to re-in­vest in the jus­tice sys­tem but that’s not what is be­ing of­fered in Hal­ton.

“Wit­nesses and peo­ple in­volved with fam­ily cases with be trav­el­ling fur­ther whilst the court is left to go into rack and ruin like the other blocks around East Lane.”

Run­corn Mag­is­trates Court is due for clo­sure. In­set, Cllr Dave Thomp­son

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