MoJ reveals 15 closed courts remain unsold

Topics: Property commercial,Courts business,Government & politics

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The Ministry of Justice has yet to dispose of 15 closed courts from a previous reform programme – even as it prepares for another round of closures.

An announcement on the fate of 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales is expected within weeks, as the government seeks to reduce costs and sell off underused sites.

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But a parliamentary answer has revealed several sites shut down by a previous round of closures under the coalition government are still in limbo and are costing thousands of pounds to maintain.

Court buildings are still unsold in: Abergavenny, Alton, Bracknell, Cirencester, Coleford, Keighley, Knutsford, Liverpool, Lyndhurst, Oswestry, Pontefract, Stourbridge, Spalding, Totnes and Towcester.

In total, they are costing at least £40,000 a month to secure and maintain, with figures not available for three sites. The most expensive upkeep is the former Alton Magistrates' Court, which is costing almost £10,000 a month.

The MoJ said as of December 2015, 80 courts closed under the court estate reform programme have been sold attracting disposal receipts of £49.6m.

Its response added that the disposal of surplus property assets is dependent on a number of factors, such as the market, potential future use, location and the fact that some are occupied in part by the police and local authorities which also make disposal difficult.

Nine of the closed court buildings which have not been disposed of are either under offer or on the market.

Of those which have not yet been brought to the market, two court buildings have shared locations with the police, which means the future of the building is tied in with the police station, one has a site contamination issue and the other three were closed only within the last seven months.

‘We are working on bringing all of them to the market as soon as possible,’ added the MoJ.

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who asked the original question, said: ‘The public will be dismayed to learn that the government are blowing nearly half-a-million pounds per year to keep several courts empty and mothballed. Michael Gove must ensure that he gets a grip on this ongoing waste of public money.’

The Law Society has been among the organisations urging the government to rethink its plans, and has said there is a case to save 59 courts across the country.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Just Great. So we have a huge bill for housing GHOSTS and a string load of dilapidated buildings with copious amounts of rats carrying torch-lights, celebrating their new found penthouses to look forward to then.

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  • The old Westminster Count Court in St Martin's Lane is now a bar, it is weird because that building always brings back memories of a certain Judge and I wonder what he would have thought about this development.
    I see that Old Street Magistrates Court is reopening as a hotel and I can't wait to go for a drink there and toast the stipes who gave me a hard time.

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  • Has Mr Wetherspoon not been approached. He must have most of the banks by now !!!

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  • Call the insurance companies.
    They're always keen to give Govt huge bundles of cash.

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  • Salford Mags (as was), Bexley Square. A very large, Grade II listed building. Sold for £50. It is now home to 146 rental flats, the very cheapest one bedder in which goes for £850 pcm (there aren't many of those; the majority are two and three beds). There is a long waiting list of prospective tenants. By my reckoning, the building pulls in about £3m a year. In Salford.

    It was sold for £50. Did I mention that?

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  • The MOJ appears to have forgotten Rochdale Magistrates which has been shut since the end of 2011 and still appears to be unsold!

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  • Anonymous re Salford Mags: How can there not be something fishy in that? The Redtops ought to be spying on every MP and official involved.

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  • 'The most expensive upkeep is the former Alton Magistrates' Court, which is costing almost £10,000 a month.'

    I'll make the MoJ an offer. I'll give up my job and look after Alton Magistrates' Court for them in return for the £120,000 p.a.. I've absolutely no chance of finding a job as a solicitor that pays that well!

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  • Anon at 3.34pm: Brentford Mags was shut a couple of years ago and turned into 9 flats with (in 2014) a 'guide price' of £495,000 each.

    Anon at 12.50: Westminster CC (now Browns) retains one of the upper court rooms as a court room - only the judge's bench sadly, but a slightly weird place to be if you recall, as I do, being in that room 30 years ago in very different circumstances.

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  • I recall mentioning Oswestry in a previous post on this topic following a local news story about the ongoing costs. It is just one of many courts in Shropshire that have closed. Others were in shared buildings but I wonder whether rent is still being paid for some of those.
    Oswestry Court was in the old Boys High School building and another part of that complex was sold off and converted to flats some years ago with other parts of the grounds being sold for new dwellings..
    I wonder why the Court part has not been similarly sold. It is clearly never going to be used as a court ever again, despite all the babbling about bringing the courts to the people, since even Shrewsbury (a relatively new, purpose-built complex) is now under threat. Even if nobody wanted to convert the existing large building, there is always the possibility of demolition and redevelopment and the site would have a not insubstantial value.
    Whilst I remain saddened by the loss of the court, I am even more saddened by the ongoing expensive waste of the space.

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