County council buys former Stafford magistrates’ court site

A county council has bought the site of Stafford’s former magistrates’ court as part of plans to regenerate an area of the town centre.

The former Stafford Magistrates Court. Photo: Google Maps
The former Stafford Magistrates Court. Photo: Google Maps

The South Walls court building shut in 2017 as part of a series of magistrates’ court closures across the country.

Now Staffordshire County Council has acquired the site from Homes England for redevelopment as part of the Eastgate Regeneration Scheme.

Staffordshire County Council is working with Stafford Borough Council and other organisations to bring vacant sites off Eastgate Street back into use as part of wider improvements for the town centre.

Speaking at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting Councillor Philip White, cabinet member for economy and skills, said: “In terms of redeveloping our county town in Stafford we’re playing our part. I am pleased to say we have taken ownership of the former magistrates’ building in Stafford as part of the regeneration of the Eastgate quarter in Stafford that the county council is leading.

“That’s a really important scheme – anybody who knows Stafford well will know that former magistrates’ building. It is in dire need of something else being done with that site and we are getting on with that as part of regenerating that area of town.

“It’s great news that that will be happening in conjunction with the £20 million investment that the borough council is making through a successful Future High Streets Fund bid to regenerate the town centre in general.”

Nightingale Court

Other sites set to be transformed through the Eastgate Regeneration Scheme are the county council’s empty Wedgwood Building and St Chad’s Building, as well as nearby property on Martin Street.

Last year another former town centre court building – Shire Hall – was awarded £1.6 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for the creation of new facilities for start-up businesses.

The Grade II-listed Shire Hall has recently reopened as a temporary Nightingale Court to help reduce the backlog of court cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Stafford Borough Council is set to approve the allocation of almost £20 million towards town centre regeneration. This includes the £14.3 million the authority has been awarded from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

Councillor Mike Smith, cabinet member for resources, said: “Our vision is to breathe new life into the town centre with the aim of making it the best in the UK. The Government has backed our plans; we have support from the private sector; and our public sector partners are already working with us to deliver this vision.

“To put it briefly, we are proposing the biggest transformation of the High Street in Stafford in a generation – and the investment we are asking the council to approve will help us achieve this. Many high streets and retailers across the UK have struggled from a combination of a worldwide recession in 2008, the increase in internet shopping, and the results of Covid-19.

“To address this we will look to increase the number of people living in the centre, make it easier to access key retail areas and public transport, and create attractive meeting spaces to bring people into the town for cultural, and other reasons, which can support a reduced retail space.”

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