Concerns about the future of the Magistrates Court in Wrexham continue after a planning meeting.
The fears were raised by several planning committee members last night during a debate on confirming a Tree Protection Order (TPO) on a group of trees on the Bodhyfryd site – particularly around the Magistrates Court.
Plans were lodged by the Ministry of Justice back in 2017 to build a new custody suite which would adjoin the court.
However four trees located near the court building and would need to be cut down in order for construction work on the cells to begin. Previously one was thought to be at risk, however a further three trees have also now been proposed for removal by the developer with claims tree protection order would ‘restrict or prevent’ replacement custody building for the currently cell-less court.
During yesterday’s debate Cllr Paul Jones raised concerns about the future of the Magistrates Court in Wrexham and questioned if the TPO would put restrictions on any custody suites being developed on the site.
Cllr Jones said: “I recognise people want to protect the trees, but the Magistrates Court is just as important.
“All over England and Wales Magistrates Courts have been closed. Over 50 per cent have been closed, we only have four left in north Wales.
“My concern is if we put a TPO on it, it provides justification for the MOJ to withdraw from removing custody cells.
“If they remove the cells in my opinion then the court will move to Mold. Already there is work that was taking place in Wrexham now taking place in Mold.”
Cllr Paul Pemberton added: “Without pre-determining anything, is there any assurance that the custody suite will fit on that site even with the TPOs?
“I am concerned that if we do put a TPO on it and we can’t get a custody suite on the site, it would be a big loss to the town.”
However the meeting was told that the application for new custody suites was being held in ‘abeyance’ after a request from the MOJ.
Chairman of the committee, Cllr Michael Morris, said that “no one is wanting to preclude a custody suite at the law courts” and that it is “not as straight forward as some of the things that has been reported in the press about it being the council’s fault”.
He said: “By confirming the order we are not stopping the custody suite, we are safeguarding trees. It is not just trees around law courts, its the whole tree cover around police station which could be affected by the Lidl development.
“By not confirming this evening we put those trees at risk as well.
“The courts have asked for it to be deferred at this time. I reassure people not looking to stop of delay custody suite.”
Planning officer David Williams added: “The TPO you’re being asked to confirm is a process which allows some degree of protection to trees which could potentially be at risk of development. It’s standard practice.
“The planning application has been with us for sometime. We have looked and tried to facilitate and worked with the courts to achieve that they want with the custodial suite without damaging some of the more attractive trees within the site.
“We’ve looked at alternative proposals in terms of the access arrangements and we felt it would be in the interest in terms of our negotiation position to impose the TPO.
“The general principle is something we are supportive of. As we would with any scheme we would impose the Order as it gives us a little bit more authority in terms of determining how certain things can be achieved on the site, otherwise there is no cover or security in terms of the tree issue.”
He added that the council are at an advanced stage in terms of negotiations in terms of the court and do have a solution.
The TPO, subject to the addition of the sycamore tree, was approved by a majority of councillors with one voting against the proposal.
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