Request to open up Wisbech courthouse refused

The Friends of Wisbech Courthouse have had a request to open the historic building to the public as part of a national event refused.

The group is determined to ensure that the courthouse remains as a public building and wanted it to open this weekend as part of the Heritage Open Days, which started yesterday.

Solicitor John Clarke wrote to HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which owns the building, and justice secretary Ken Clarke on behalf of the group to help their cause.

But a letter from Steve Davis, from the government agency, said: 'A request to reopen the former Wisbech court building has already been made by [North-East Cambridgeshire MP] Stephen Barclay. This was considered by [Justice Minister] Jonathan Djanogly who declined the request.

'Essentially, work has been carried out within the building and its appearance no longer lends itself to court visits.'

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In response, Mr Clarke said: 'This request was our group saying to the government that we can't argue about the closure any more and that this is a local initiative to get the building open for the public to look around. What we find strange is that we have been told that the building is not suitable for the public to look around when only a few months ago it was deemed safe for magistrates, criminals, etc.

'We also quite simply don't understand the decision because we said we would help to reopen the building, man the doors and even offered to insure it. It just seems such a pity because it is one of the biggest magistrates courts to have been closed and we think the public will want to have a look round it.'

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The courthouse in Wisbech was opened in April 1957 by the Master of the Rolls, the Rt Hon Lord Evershed, who described it as a 'worthy addition' to the town and it cost �108,000 to build.

When the proposed closure was announced by the Ministry of Justice, Fenland magistrates put up a spirited fight to save the court. But magistrates bade a fond farewell to a 'much-loved friend' as the Fenland courthouse closed its doors for the last time on March 23.

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