Nearly a fifth of all courts and tribunals in England and Wales are to close, the government has announced.
Eighty-six of 460 courts and tribunal hearing centres will shut as part of “modernisation” plans, HM Courts and Tribunal Service confirmed.
The reforms aim to reduce the £500m annual cost of the courts estate.
Ministers said 48% of court buildings were empty at least half of the time last year, but the Law Society warns closures could limit access to justice.
Crown courts, county courts, family courts, youth courts, civil courts and tribunal hearing centres are among the centres that will close.
The government has published a schedule for the closures, with six phases planned between now and September 2017.
In total, 86 of the 91 courts and tribunal hearing centres that had been under consultation for closure will shut, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara confirmed.
On average, the 86 courts due to be closed were only being used for just over a third of their available hearing time – equivalent to fewer than two days a week, he said.
More than 97% of citizens would still be able to reach their required court “by car within an hour” after the closures, he added.
Various groups have opposed the plans.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors, argues that many people using public transport would face long and expensive journeys.
It gave an example of a return journey from one Aylesbury court which had been due to close to the proposed alternative Milton Keynes, which it said would cost £71 and was a five-hour round trip.
Malcolm Richardson, national chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, a charity which represents magistrates in England and Wales, said many of its members would be “very worried” about the impact of the closures.
“There will be inevitable additional pressure on the system and the paramount concern of magistrates is for accessible justice to be protected,” he said.
The family law organisation Resolution, which represents 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, called the government’s plans a “simplistic, ill-thought through exercise”.
“Those affected the most by these closures will be vulnerable people such as victims of domestic abuse, young people and those who rely on public transport to get around,” it said.
In a written statement, Justice Minister Mr Vara said the closures were necessary because many court buildings were “expensive to maintain yet unsuitable for modern technology”.
“Court closures are difficult decisions; local communities have strong allegiances to their local courts and I understand their concerns,” he said.
“But changes to the estate are vital if we are to modernise a system which everybody accepts is unwieldy, inefficient, slow, expensive to maintain and unduly bureaucratic.”
The following courts will close:
- Feltham Magistrates’ Court
- Greenwich Magistrates’ Court
- Hammersmith County Court (formerly West London County Court)
- Pocock Street Tribunal Hearing Centre
- Richmond-upon-Thames Magistrates’ Court
- Tottenham Magistrates’ Court
- Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court
- Woolwich County Court
- Birmingham Youth Court
- Burton-upon-Trent Magistrates’ Court
- Corby Magistrates’ Court
- Kettering County Court
- Kettering Magistrates’ Court
- Sandwell Magistrates’ Court
- Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court
- Skegness Magistrates’ Court
- Solihull Magistrates’ Court
- Stafford Magistrates’ Court
- Worksop Magistrates’ Court
- Halifax County Court and Family Court
- Halifax (Calderdale) Magistrates’ and Family Court
- Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- Morpeth County Court
- Rotherham Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Wakefield Magistrates’ Court
- Accrington County Court
- Accrington Magistrates’ Court
- Bolton County Court and Family Court
- Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- Oldham County Court
- Oldham Magistrates’ Court
- Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates’ Court
- St Helens Magistrates’ Court
- Tameside County Court
- Trafford Magistrates’ Court and Altrincham County Court
- Basildon Social Security and Child Support Tribunal (Acorn House)
- Bedford and Mid Beds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bedford County Court and Family Court
- Bicester Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
- Chichester Magistrates’ Court
- Colchester County Court and Family Court
- Colchester County Court Offices
- Dartford Magistrates’ Court
- Dover Magistrates’ Court
- Harlow Magistrates’ Court
- Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Redhill Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Reigate County Court and Family Court
- St Albans County Court
- Watford Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
- West Berkshire (Newbury) Magistrates’ Court
- Barnstaple Crown Court
- Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court
- Cheltenham Rivershill House Tribunal
- Chippenham Magistrates’ Court, Civil Court and Family Court
- Dorchester Crown Court
- Fareham Magistrates’ Court
- Gloucester Magistrates’ Court
- North Avon (Yate) Magistrates’ Court
- Stroud Magistrates’ Court
- Torquay Magistrates’ Court
- Brecon Law Courts
- Bridgend Law Courts
- Neath and Port Talbot Civil and Family Court
- Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court
- Wrexham Tribunal (Rhyd Broughton)
The following courts will close with changes to the original government proposals – work will either move to another HM Courts & Tribunals Service site, or an alternative local location. Full details can be found on a court-by-court basis in the government’s regional responses.
- Bow County Court
- Lambeth County Court
- Buxton Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- Grantham Magistrates’ Court
- Hinckley Magistrates’ Court
- Consett Magistrates’ Court
- Kendal Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- Macclesfield County Court
- Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court
- Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
- Warrington County Court
- Aylesbury Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Bury St. Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St. Edmunds Crown Court
- Chichester Combined Court (Crown and County)
- Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Kings Lynn County Court and Family Court
- Tunbridge Wells County Court and Family Court
- Carmarthen Law Courts (The Guildhall)
- Dolgellau Crown and Magistrates’ Court
- Holyhead Magistrates’ Court
- Llangefni Civil and Family Court
- Prestatyn Magistrates’ Court
The following courts, which had been under consideration for closure as part of the government’s consultation, will remain open:
- St Helens County Court (St Helens Magistrates’ Court to close)
- Stockport Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- West Cumbria Magistrates’ Court and County Court
- Bath Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court
- Carmarthen Civil, Family, Tribunal and Probate Hearing Centre