I am today announcing the outcome of five separate consultations published on 18 January 2018 relating to the future of eight courts within HM Courts & Tribunals estate [HCWS412].
More than 700 responses to these consultations were received and each was considered carefully against the overarching principles governing estates reform as set out in the 2015 consultation document, Proposals on the provision of court and tribunal estate in England and Wales. These principles are arranged in three themes: ensuring access to justice; delivering value for money; and enabling efficiency in the longer term.
As a result, I have decided that the following courts should close,
• Banbury Magistrates’ and County Court and Maidenhead Magistrates’ Court,
• Chorley Magistrates’ Court and Fleetwood Magistrates’ Court,
• Northallerton Magistrates’ Court, and
• Wandsworth County Court, and Blackfriars Crown Court.
I have concluded that the proposal to close Cambridge Magistrates’ Court should be withdrawn. This proposal received the largest number of responses to the consultation and the decision to consult was a finely balanced one, not least because this is a court in a strategic centre serving a large surrounding area. There is excess court capacity in the area but, following new information regarding the likely proceeds of disposal and consideration of the cost of re-provision, I have concluded the value-for-money case for closure has not been made. HMCTS will continue to explore further ways to manage under-utilisation of existing buildings in the region and across the country as part of its wider estates strategy.
In January, we also published for consultation, Fit for the Future: Transforming the Court and Tribunal Estate, setting out our proposed approach to the future management of the HMCTS estate in the context of the wider modernisation programme. We have received many detailed responses to these proposals and these are still under consideration.
A response to this consultation will be published in due course. But, given the local interest in the eight courts and the need for certainty for those who use them, I felt it would not be right to delay our response to these proposals until we were ready to respond to the strategy consultation.
All savings and money raised through disposals as a result of these closures will be in invested to support the HMCTS reform programme backed by both the Government and the senior judiciary. This programme will help to provide a more accessible and efficient justice for all those who use it.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: