‘Contradiction’ over Chichester law court closure is criticised

A leading ‘save our law courts’ campaigner has criticised the ‘apparent contradiction’ in Chichester District Council’s (CDC) position over the future of justice provision in the city.

Edward Cooke, vice chairman of Resolution, West Sussex region and past chairman of the Chichester and District Law Society said he was ‘surprised’ and ‘disappointed’ after a statement from CDC saying following the decision to remove the law courts it was pressing ahead with a masterplan for the Southern Gateway area of Chichester.

“CDC has been aware for months that we, and many people across the Chichester district, are deeply unhappy at the decision to remove the law courts,” he said. “CDC is also aware we are strongly considering filing an application for Judicial Review of the government’s decision not to provide suitable local alternative justice provision, given the announcement Chichester would be left with no court room facilities.”

He said whereas the city council had made a resolution in favour of keeping justice provision: “CDC appears to wish to press ahead with plans to scrap the entire court site before this process, and in particular a possible judicial review challenge, has been concluded. Leader Tony Dignum wrote in March to the minister responsible for the courts expressing his strong opposition to the closures, yet in June we learned CDC were at an advanced stage in discussions with the Home and Communities Agency for redevelopment of this site. This apparent contradiction in the district council’s position has never been satisfactorily explained.”

He said CDC was fully aware campaigners had proposed the existing magistrates courts be retained as a new combined court facility and of the possible judicial review: “We hope CDC will reflect on the vital importance of securing the magistrates court site as a new combined court hearing centre, and that it will support any judicial review.”

A CDC spokesman said the masterplan, one of the biggest regeneration projects ever seen in the city, would include new homes, offices and commercial premises and “bring a number of sites together as a co-ordinated framework to deliver regeneration and economic growth.” The law courts would form part of this plan.

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