Former court in Stafford to be replaced with car park for council staff

Stafford’s former magistrates’ court is set to be demolished to make way for a temporary car park for council workers while the authority decides how to develop it.

Stafford Magistrates Court closed in 2017
Stafford Magistrates Court closed in 2017

Staffordshire County Council bought the South Walls site from Homes England for redevelopment as part of the Eastgate Regeneration Scheme. The court closed in 2017.

Before the site is redeveloped it will be cleared to create a temporary car park for council staff and members, with spaces for 60 cars as well as motorcycle parking and cycle stands.

Stafford Borough Council planning officers have approved the demolition and car park plans despite residents in the town questioning why public sector workers should be the only people to benefit from the scheme.

Another resident highlighted the huge backlog in the court system across the country and suggested the facility should be put back into use to help the justice system.

The planning officers' report said: “The applicant indicates that the works are scheduled to commence in August 2021 with completion of the surface car park by January 2022. The buildings are of mid-20th century brick construction and are not considered to be of any special historic significance

“They are not considered suitable for refurbishment or redevelopment and as both have considerable holding costs attached to retaining them. Early demolition is of benefit to the applicant

“The ultimate redevelopment of the cleared site has not been determined, however in the interim it is proposed that the site would be utilised for parking provision for key workers and members of Staffordshire County Council. Access would remain restricted by the existing car park barrier.”

There were three objections put forward in response to the plans, however, and suggestions for alternative uses of the site.

A Taplin Close resident said: “The current proposal to make use of this car park for council staff is unacceptable to taxpayers, particularly those employed within the town centre. The vast majority of businesses within the town have no free parking facilities, the public sector should not benefit from enhanced provision of any facilities available in this respect.

"This land was purchased with development intentions – if these cannot be fulfilled by the council the land should immediately be placed on the market for disposal with an opportunity for redevelopment to generate capital funding for alternative schemes.

"Stafford residents intending to shop within the town and using a car to travel face fees to park, council staff should not be above this. Parking in the town is used to generate revenue and has probably caused some significant loss of footfall for local providers.

"If creating a car park, it should be for public use, at a subsidy. How is it proper to create additional parking in the town but for the benefit only of councillors and employees?”

A Baswich Lane resident said: “The cost to demolish and then redevelop will be large.

"Why not allow the police station to use the facilities to enable them to expand their work/service facilities and maybe include some direct collaborative work with the probation services? This could be either temporary or permanent basis.

"Additional court provision, to that currently available, is already required nationally due to the backlog of work to deal with cases within the courts services due to Covid-19 backlog.

"These courts should be reopened to support the court services in dealing with the increased work demand and Covid-19 guideline requirements.

"Currently there are only magistrates courts in North Staffordshire and Cannock within Staffordshire, both having transport issues for court users."

A Deans Park Court resident said: "In community terms this does not consider other uses worthy of evaluation for the wider benefit to residents and visitors.

"In the public domain is the recent £14.3 million award from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund with the aim of boosting businesses with town centre improvements. The plans include new pedestrian routes with improved links to public transport, not including a bus station for a County Town at present.

"The planning site being considered for clearance has bus route feeds from South Walls with egress onto Eastgate Street onto existing bus routes. As an example of a modern bus station design which can be accommodated on a modest site, the example of Lancaster is commended to the committee."

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