Courthouse Closure Concerns Voiced

Ballymena Courthouse Closure – Justice Minister urged to go back to the drawing board.

A delegation met with Justice Minister David Ford MLA to voice their concern about the proposed closure of Ballymena Courthouse and urge him to go back to the drawing board on the future of the building.

The delegation including Ian Paisley MP, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, Cllr Timothy Gaston, Cllr Tommy Nicholl MBE, Cllr Billy Henry, Cllr Brian Collins, Cllr Stephen Nicholl and Chris Wales.

The meeting, called by Ian Paisley MP, included Mayor Of Ballymena Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, Mr Chris Wales of Ballymena Chamber of Commerce,  a delegation from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council made up of  Cllr Timothy Gaston, Cllr Tommy Nicholl MBE, Cllr Billy Henry and Cllr Brian Collins, along with Cllr Stephen Nicholl, representing Robin Swann MLA.

The Minister has agreed to consider proposals for alternative ways forward, and suggested that his officials work with the Council in order to identify options for the future use of the Courthouse.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Paisley said ‘Ballymena Courthouse is an important feature of the town and the region.  I completely oppose the move to close this building and remove this important service from the town. The Community are entitled to have access to justice and the proposals to transfer business to Antrim or Coleraine is wrong.  I have asked the Minister to provide further information on the logic and rationale to support the anticipated 10.8% cost savings which he believes will be made through this closure.  I will lend my support to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council who are going to work with DOJ to consider alternatives.’

Cllr Audrey Wales, Mayor of Ballymena, said ‘I am very concerned that the closure of Ballymena Courthouse would mean a poorer service for our citizens, particularly those who are vulnerable.  I believe the Minister listened to our concerns and is willing to consider options to attempt to keep the courthouse in our town’.

Speaking on behalf of the Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, Mr Chris Wales said ‘from an economic point of view, the courthouse and associated services support our local economy and the proposed closure will have a significant impact’.

Mid and East Antrim Deputy Presiding Chairman, Cllr Timothy Gaston said ‘I think it is important for local people to see that justice is being done.  Closing Ballymena Courthouse means that the new Mid and East Antrim Borough will be left without a Courthouse, something which I feel is unacceptable.’

Chairman of Community Planning Committee, Cllr Tommy Nicholl MBE, said ‘using a community planning approach, we believe Ballymena Courthouse, with its central location, could provide a range of services and facilities to our community.  I ampleased that the Minister was receptive to this idea and has agreed for his officials to enter into discussions with Council about an alternative way forward’.

Cllrs Billy Henry, Brian Collins and Stephen Nicholl also raised their concerns with the Minister, particularly around additional pressures on the court support services, such as PSNI and public transport issues.

This proposed closure is now out to public consultation, and any responses must be submitted by 30th April 2015. Chamber will be submitting their argument for the retention of the courthouse in the next few weeks and we would urge you to visit the Department of Justice website: http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/public-consultations/current-consultations/consultation-on-proposals-for-the-rationalisation-of-the-court-estate.htm , examine the proposals and submit your views to the Department.

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Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 4 Wellington Court, Ballymena, BT43 6EQ

Email: office@ballymenachamber.co.uk

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