Wales

Wrexham Magistrates' Court cell block plans approved

Wrexham court and trees Image copyright LDRS
Image caption New trees will be planted at the front of the court to replace those lost

Proposals for new prison cells at Wrexham Magistrates' Court have been approved by councillors.

Members had been recommended to back the two-storey custody block, which has been held up for two years by a tree preservation order.

It has meant custodial cases, usually held in Wrexham, have had to be heard 10 miles (16km) away in Mold.

Local MP Ian Lucas said the travelling was "simply not acceptable" for victims, defendants and solicitors.

Shared facilities at the neighbouring police station at Bodhyfryd were closed at the start of the year.

'Long overdue'

Ministry of Justice proposals were first submitted for a new cell block in December 2017 but were held up by the tree dispute with Wrexham council.

The scheme was approved after representatives for Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service agreed to replant eight trees.

They are being cut down for access for custody vehicles.

An agent for the court service said the development was needed to support a key employer that generated "a great deal of economic activity".

Michael Southall told a meeting: "North Wales Police relocated their headquarters, so facilities are no longer operational there.

"The proposed custodial suite is therefore essential and has been specifically designed to suit the security requirements the courts have."

He said the courts had worked closely with the council to reach an agreement about the trees.

Before the planning committee meeting, council officers recommended the new cell block for approval.

It followed a long campaign by Mr Lucas.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the new cells were "vital" for the court's future.

"At a time when courts are closing all over the UK, the MoJ has been persuaded to invest in Wrexham and I regard this as a very welcome - if long overdue - development," he said.

He called on Wrexham council and North Wales Police to reflect on the decision to close the town's main police station without making arrangements for replacement cells first.

The proposals were backed unanimously by the committee at the end of the debate.

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