Newcastle Civic Centre set to house civil courts
Talks to move the HM Courts and Tribunals Service into Newcastle Civic Centre are at an advanced stage, with the service expected to relocate to the building in summer 2019.
Forming part of plans to generate extra income to help fund city services, the Council has embarked on a refurbishment programme since 2015 to add an additional £32m of income to its coffers over the next 25 years.
Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, explained: “This partnership with our new, long-term tenant not only secures a sustainable future for one of the iconic Grade II Listed building in the city, but importantly it helps us generate income that will fund vital front line services for our residents.
“The Civic Centre belongs to Newcastle and to everyone who lives, works and visits the city, and we were committed to protecting this important asset and enhancing such an iconic building, and making it fit for the 21st century.
“In July 2015 we set out ambitious plans for Civic Centre, and back then we knew that we had to take an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to meet the financial pressures we faced by investing to save for the future.
“Our focus is very much on creating a civic quarter in the city centre, through bringing public sector partners and their services together with the council and pooling our resources. This not only improves the services we all deliver to our residents and businesses, but puts Civic Centre firmly at the heart of that civic quarter.”
Should the deal gain a final seal of approval, Newcastle Magistrates Courts would move into the Combined Court to create a united Criminal Justice Centre on Newcastle’s Quayside.
A masterplan has been developed for next phase of the Civic Centre refurbishment programme, and these plans are now live on the council’s planning portal. This is part of a wider public estate strategy by the council and other local and central government partners.
This includes proposals to reconfigure the Civic Centre’s main entrance, providing a new front door for the public, with designs led by Newcastle-based FaulknerBrowns Architects and Aura NorthEast.
Mark Swales, North East Delivery Director for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said: “We’re committed to the continued delivery of justice in Newcastle.
“Subject to necessary agreements, this lease would bring together Civil, Family and Tribunals work in the Civic Centre and help to deliver a Criminal Justice Centre in the city – bringing Magistrates and Crown court work under the same roof in the Combined Court on the Quayside.
“We have a world-leading legal system and are investing £1.1 billion to reform and digitise our court estate to deliver swifter justice.”
Cllr Forbes added: “Our initial programme of work focused on updating areas which we could rent out to accelerate rental income, and we’ve made significant progress on this. We are on track to deliver the targeted £32 million of savings and income over the next 25 years.
“But crucially we must remember why we’re doing this. Our financial challenges still remain, and the Government have been very clear that by 2020 we are on our own. Consolidating public services in this way to generate income and achieve economies of scale helps us meet these challenges head on.”