Rumour of pub plan for Lewes court denied

THE future of Lewes Magistrates’Court remains undecided more than a month after its closure.

Rumours circulating in the town that budget pub chain Wetherspoons was interested in acquiring the building were firmly denied this week.

However, the company is monitoring two other undisclosed premises in the county town.

A spokesman for Wetherspoons said: “We are looking at Lewes but not at the magistrates’ court. We want to be in the town and there are a couple of possible sites.”

The purpose-built, bomb-proof courts in Friars Walk were opened by Diana Princess of Wales in 1988.

But less than a quarter of a century later they closed on March 30, one of 93 magistrates’ courts across the county axed for not providing value for money.

Magistrate Bob Brandley described it as “a sad day for local justice”.

It was estimated that closing Lewes and switching hearings to Brighton would save £200,000 per year and remove the need for a £50,000 maintenance outlay.

Lewes MP Norman Baker, who campaigned long and hard to keep the courts functioning, describing them as “a special case”, said the building could still perform a judicial function.

He said: “I was given an assurance by Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly that I would be kept fully up to date with any proposed plans for the building. There are no plans yet.”

He continued: “The building is designed for court purposes. It might house Crown Court facilities to supplement what goes on up the road in Lewes.”

A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said: “HMCTS is exploring various disposal strategies to obtain the best value for the building.”