Wakefield Coroner's Court building 'no longer fit for purpose' as new venue close to Westgate Station lined up

Wakefield's coroner's court building is "no longer fit for purpose" and does not comply with disabled access laws, a report has said.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 2:23 pm

The Grade II listed venue, on Northgate in the city centre, hosts more than 800 inquests a year and is one of the busiest courts of its kind in the country.

But Wakefield Council which owns the building, is now planning to move the court to a new site nearby.

A report going before senior councillors next week has concluded that modernising the venue would not be worth it, with costs estimated to be in well in excess of £1m.

The building is located on Northgate.

The report said: "71 Northgate is no longer fit for purpose and requires significant capital investment to create modern, progressive accommodation to meet the needs and requirements of all its staff and customers."

Council officers who wrote the report added that refurbishment was not advised due to the need to find a new temporary courthouse and a lack of "obvious alternative".

They also said there was a risk the project would not be completed on time if further structural problems were found.

A new space on Merchant Gate, close to Wakefield Westgate Station, has been lined up to become the new coroner's court.

The report said the council had negotiated a 15 year-lease on a unit there, starting with a starting rent price of £149,000, plus a service charge.

Leeds City Council, will cover 70 per cent of that cost and already shares responsibility for coroner service costs with their Wakefield counterparts.

That's because Leeds deaths are also registered at the venue.

The report said the new unit would "Meet the needs of disabled court users and improve the experience of the residents of Wakefield and Leeds who come into contact with the service during what is often a very difficult time for them."

The Northgate building is likely to be sold, having been given a market value of £280,000.

Kevin Trickett from the Wakefield Civic Society, said the news was "not unexpected" but that he hoped the Northgate structure would be reused "sympathetically".

He added: "Merchantgate is on the Free City Bus route and there's a car park there, so it will be more convenient for a lot of people.

"The big question I suppose is, 'what happens to the current building?'

"It's a fantastic Georgian building and it's got a lot of history.

"I would hope that the council recognises some of the mistakes that have been made in the past, where buildings were sold off without conditions attached and they fell into dereliction and disrepair.

"In a number of those cases, the council ended up having to buy those buildings back to sort them out."

Local Democracy Reporting Service