Council leaders at all levels are being called upon to explore the possibility of holding judicial hearings in their buildings after the closure of Banbury’s courts.
Banbury Town Council leader Kieron Mallon has lodged motions urging the local authorities to decry the shutting of the magistrates’ and county courts and ask the government to look into keeping some hearings in the town.
The motion to the town, district and county councils, which rejects the suggestion the courts are under-used and argues the closure will cause additional strain on people and services, is anticipated to be discussed at their next meetings.
Cllr Mallon said: “The cost to the judiciary of utilising easy to access public buildings here would be far less than it is now and for local people that have access to public transport from surrounding counties, coming to Banbury would be a far better option than travelling to Oxford.
“With all its congestion problems, the cost of travelling and the astronomical Oxford parking charges this would also be a far cheaper option for those on low incomes or the elderly who need to attend civil cases.”
The government’s decision to shut the court and sell the Warwick Road building last month, despite overwhelming opposition, was met with dismay from people across the town.
Cllr Mallon immediately spoke to officers and senior councillors about the possibility of using other public sector buildings for local cases to be heard without having to travel to Oxford.
“As soon as the decision was announced I spoke to the town clerk about the possibility of using the town hall for local cases,” he said.
“When the Warwick Road court was last refurbished they used the main chamber and meeting rooms to hear local cases, this is an option that must be explored further.
“I also spoke to leaders at Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council, with the new joint working between the two councils perhaps Bodicote House could be utilised, it’s already used for planning appeals and the like which are judicial in their format.”
Cllr Mallon then lodged his motion to all three councils and said the Liberal Democrats told him they would join the Conservatives and support it.
“I hope all councillors will also support me in asking the Ministry of Justice to explore all options of retaining elements of locally administered justice here in Banbury and north Oxfordshire,” he said.
Banbury Town Council has already made informal contact with the magistrates and county court about this offer, according to Cllr Mallon.