TRAFFORD politicians and a leading Altrincham solicitor have spoken out about the proposed closure of the Trafford Courthouse - and accessibility is a central issue for all of them.

Altrincham County Court and Trafford Magistrates Court, both located in Washway Road, Sale, are among 18 courts across the North West facing the axe.

A 12 week consultation into the proposals – announced today by Courts Minister, Shailesh Vara yesterday – will conclude on October 8.

MP for Altrincham and Sale West, Graham Brady, said: “Everyone understands that the Ministry of Justice has to control costs, but we have to make sure our courts are easily accessible to everyone.

"It is vitally important we ensure that any changes won’t cause difficulties, especially for vulnerable and disabled people.

“I have contacted the court managers locally as well as Trafford Council and want to hear the views of those who use the courts before making a formal response to the consultation.”

Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green said, "It's important that when people need to go to court they can get there quickly and easily and their case is handled by people who understand local circumstances. 

"I will be looking very carefully at the Government's proposals and what they mean for people in Trafford." 

Trafford Council leader Sean Anstee also raised access issues. He said: "I am keen to ensure that any changes reflect the importance of local justice and that any accessibility concerns that may arise from these proposals are addressed."

Solicitor Adam Horner, from McHale and Co, who specialises in personal injury and clinical negligence, the closure proposal is 'very disappointing'.

"I have had several court hearings there in past few months and the court still serves a real purpose.

"All civil cases are to be transferred to Manchester Civil Justice Centre which is a very impressive building but for South Manchester residents it is not the most accessible as parking is extortionate, there is no direct bus and the nearest tram stop is a good 20 minute walk away.

"For clients who are based in South Manchester, Trafford Court is easily accessible and particularly for elderly clients who may find the experience of going into the city centre distressing.

"For most people attending court is a scary and nerve racking experience. This will be made worse if they have to travel to the city centre for a court hearing as the courts are larger and can be more daunting.

"I understand there are proposals to also close Bury, Oldham, Bolton, Macclesfield and Tameside Courts. This will also result in a number of redundancies of court staff.

"I appreciate that some of the Courts may be underused but waiting times for court hearings at Manchester Civil Justice Centre are huge and if local courts close these will obviously increase.

"The current waiting time is on average 12 weeks whereas a hearing can take place within a few weeks notice at Altrincham County Court.

"It is reported that there would be savings but this limits people's access to justice, delays claims and may prevent people pursuing compensation that they may deserve."

Cllr Ray Bowker, Trafford’s  Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said: “This, in my opinion, is certainly a crazy, retrograde step.

“We have a ridiculous situation in Greater Manchester where Government funding for police services has already been reduced and will be reduced still further.  This means considerably less police officers to organise and control  crime prevention.  Crime is already on the increase in the area a situation which is bound to worsen under these prevailing circumstances.

“In my opinion more criminals need to be arrested and sentenced to improve protection and safety in our area.  Hence there would then be a subsequent need to retain our Trafford courts.  In other words the lack of police funding is making an excuse to close these courts.

“Trafford is certainly a large enough area to justify its own courts.  Travelling to courts outside Trafford will attract costs and create inefficiencies.

“The Conservative Government should get its priorities right.”

You can download the consultation here: official-sensitive_north-west-consultation-paper_final.doc