Plan for new courts complex for county

By Sharon AsplinA NEW coroner's court is likely to be built as part of an ambitious multi-million-pound “justice centre” in Chelmsford.The scheme has been put together in a series of meetings between Essex coroner Caroline Beasley Murray, Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns and Essex County Council.

By Sharon Asplin

A NEW coroner's court is likely to be built as part of an ambitious multi-million-pound “justice centre” in Chelmsford.

The scheme has been put together in a series of meetings between Essex coroner Caroline Beasley Murray, Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns and Essex County Council.

According to the ruling Conservatives on Essex County Council, the proposal - to include a purpose-built new magistrates' court in central Chelmsford, which will contain the coroner's court - is part of the Essex Magistrates' Courts Committee's plan to update its court structure throughout the county.

The bulk of the funding for the project is being found through a private finance initiative administered by the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Leader of the council, Lord Hanningfield, said: “This new centre will be a valuable asset to the people of Chelmsford and the county as a whole and I am looking forward to seeing it opened in a few years' time.

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“This project shows how collaboration between all levels of local government, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Essex Magistrates' Courts Committee can bring about a good result.

“It very much proves that if we can do this in Chelmsford, there's no reason why other towns in the county shouldn't benefit from similar schemes.”

The plan was also welcomed by Mr Burns, who said: “The current coroner's court in Shire Hall is totally inadequate for its needs, with no proper access for the disabled or office for the coroner to work in privately. Any jury currently has to pass through the kitchens to get to the jury room.”

The partners remained tight-lipped about the eventual location of the new courts complex, saying it was “commercially sensitive” and still under negotiation.

Funding will come from several sources - an 80% grant will be met by the Lord Chancellor's Department, with the remaining 20% to be funded initially by the magistrates' courts committee.

Discussions are currently taking place between the committee and the council about longer-term funding.

The Essex Magistrates' Courts Committee said it was unable to comment on the scheme.

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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