Haddington Sheriff Court could become housing

HADDINGTON’S sheriff court buildings are set to go on the market and could be turned into housing, despite fierce opposition to the court’s closure.

Protestors gather outside Parliament to demonstrate against the Haddington closure in June. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) confirmed there were no further plans for Haddington Sheriff Court in East Lothian.

Currently, the court, which dates to the mid-19th century, serves a population of approximately 100,000 and when it shuts next year all court business will move to Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

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Local MSP Iain Gray, one of those who fought against the closure plans, has hit out at suggestions of turning the court into housing.

He said today: “The court service talked about housing as a possible use for the building, but that seems highly unlikely to me.

“We should certainly oppose anything which would change the character of the building, given its situation at the heart of the town.”

Instead, Mr Gray was keen for a re-think, and for the county to retain its sheriff court.

He said: “Frankly, given recent figures showing that Edinburgh cannot cope as it is, the best thing the SCS could do is admit their mistake, change their mind and keep Haddington for what it is good for - a court.”

The politician’s disapproval of the building being transformed into housing was shared by the chairwoman of the town’s community council, Jan Wilson.

She said: “It’s a really beautiful building and you would not want anything done to spoil it.”

Mrs Wilson expressed concerns about housing and the proximity of any flats to any secure information stored within John Muir House.

She added: “Honestly, I would hate it to become housing.”

Uncertainty remains over the future of services such as marriage and citizenship services, based in the court building.

According to the courts consultation document, published by East Lothian Council in December 2012: “The council has been taking steps to reduce the size of its own estate in recent years, and so it cannot be assumed that the council would be a willing buyer.

“Should the SCS sell or lease for an alternative use, the council would be directly affected by sharing space with the new owner/tenant.

“The council would have the right to object to change of use during the planning process.

“The council’s ‘Adam Room’, which hosts marriage and citizenship ceremonies, shares the entranceway with the court.

“If the court building were to be closed up or sold, the council might have to consider relocating these ceremonies, with consequent costs.”

Mr Gray accused Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP of “ripping the heart out of Haddington”.

He added: “The SCS’s confirmation that the court building will simply be sold to the highest bidder underlines the damage that is set to be done.

“I have said all along that the court closure is a huge blow.”