Court bosses have denied rumours they intend to kick plans for flexible hearing hours into the long grass.

Speculation has grown in the past week that the proposed pilot for flexible operating hours has been cancelled or significantly delayed.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has told the Gazette this is not true, and the planned testing of the scheme at courts in Manchester and Brentford will begin by the summer. The department intends to publish an evaluation framework in advance of the pilot starting.

A spokesperson added: ‘These pilots will allow us to assess whether flexible operating hours can give people greater flexibility in their busy lives by making our courts and tribunals more accessible to the public.

Civil and family courts will sit outside the traditional 10am-4pm hours. Early sessions are due to start at 8am, with the court potentially running until 7pm. Different judges will sit during the morning and afternoon/evening sessions.

The project has attracted controversy since it was first announced in 2017, with plans initially dropped and then revised proposals removing the pilot from magistrates’ and Crown Courts.

The pilot will run for six months, with assessment then conducted by an independent organisation.

HMCTS has stressed that flexible operating hours is an idea based on the principle of people working different, but not extended, hours.

In introducing the pilot, the organisation: 'We recognise that some legal professional have expressed the view that this is not possible in some circumstances, but we want the pilots to test alternative ways of working and to examine the effect of changes on all participants.'