AMBITIOUS plans to move court services in to Fareham’s Civic Offices and create a ‘tower of power’ have been put forward by the council leader.
The future of Fareham Magistrates’ Court, which also houses a youth court, is under review by the government. One option would see the building closed.
But Cllr Sean Woodward has put forward a motion that could see court services move into the Civic Offices.
He has ‘serious concerns’ about the impact the court’s closure would have on residents in Fareham and Gosport.
This follows on the Integrated Offender Management and the Wessex Youth Offending Team moving in to the tower in 2011.
Hampshire Constabulary also intends to move its Safer Neighbourhood Team in when Fareham police station closes early next year.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘I’m concerned about the loss of the magistrates’ court within Fareham, albeit not the loss of that abomination of a building. There are a number of issues around this and the one of most concerning is access to justice for residents of Fareham, and residents of Gosport as well.’
He said the Ministry of Justice is only looking at the distance between courts, not the distance it would take from the western wards of Fareham to Portsmouth.
But he said this could be combated if some cases were held in the Civic Offices.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘The use of the court has been reducing over the years.
‘There are no longer custodial cases dealt with there so if we have concerns about making use of this building and security, then it is somewhat ameliorated.’
Cllr Woodward said the court site in Trinity Street could then be used as a brownfield site for housing.
He spoke at the last full council meeting about the plans and councillors debated the idea.
Cllr Tim Knight said: ‘Call me old fashioned, but I believe that justice should be local. I am worried about this.’
Cllr Jack Englefield said: ‘We do seem to be getting short-changed.
‘We have a police station where the lights are on and nobody’s home and now a closed magistrates’ court.
‘I’m not happy with this at all and I share the leader’s concerns.’
There are 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales at risk of closure – 57 magistrates’ courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal centres and nine combined courts – including Chichester.
The consultation closes on October 8.