A group of Spalding business professionals have made a formal cash offer to buy Spalding’s courthouse as they bid to safeguard it for the community.
If the undisclosed sum is accepted by the Ministry of Justice, the group will form a charitable trust to raise funds to buy and renovate the building in Sheep Market.
Firstly, what I don’t want to happen – and nobody wants to happen – is somebody buys it like they have with the old sorting office and then just leaves it and does nothing with it.Town centre manager Dennis Hannant
Terry Moore, president of Spalding branch of The Royal British Legion (RBL), said the aim is to preserve the courthouse “for the future generations of Spalding, benefiting the local community for many years to come”.
Originally it was intended the RBL would buy or lease the building, perhaps letting out areas to other groups.
But Mr Moore said: “The RBL were reluctant to take on a grade II listed building because obviously it’s a big undertaking so we had to try and find another way around it.”
If the charitable trust is successful, the court will most likely become Spalding RBL’s new home, because it has outgrown its base in Spring Gardens, and be used by other groups.
Mr Moore said: “I know the aid cadets have got a problem with storage – one or two people that we have talked to have got problems with outgrowing their facilities.”
He said if a trust is formed, they will apply for grants and fundraise in the community.
With help from South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes, Mr Moore and fellow business professionals attended a meeting in London with Shailesh Vara, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, to discuss the offer to buy.
Mr Hayes said: “I am delighted to continue to back the team that are working to secure the courthouse for our community. They have my full support.”
Among business professionals at the London meeting were Craig Delaney, Coun Harry Drury, Jan Whitbourn, Colin Jackman, Ken Maggs, James Drake and Spalding town centre manager Dennis Hannant.
Mr Hannant told us he doesn’t want to see the building left to deteriorate when it could be a real asset to the town.
He said: “Firstly, what I don’t want to happen – and nobody wants to happen – is somebody buys it like they have with the old sorting office and then just leaves it and does nothing with it.
“Secondly there are a number of groups around that are looking for a home, the RBL being one.”
He said if the building were turned into offices, only the people who worked there would be able to go inside.
But if it is open to the community, with courtroom 1 perhaps used as a museum and the building houses a library or a bookshop, it will increase visitors to the town.
Spalding Magistrates’ Court, also known as The Sessions House, first opened for hearings on June 30, 1843.
It closed in December 2013, as part of regional courts’ service cost-cutting measures. A similar building in Boston closed around nine or ten years ago and has remained empty ever since and a drain on the public purse through ongoing maintenance.
When the Spalding court closed, solicitor Anita Toal feared the building would be allowed to fall into “terminal decline”.
She said then: “I only hope the owners of the building will take care of it to ensure it can be put to good use for the benefit of the local area or that it is preserved for a time when the Government comes to its senses and appreciates the value of the local magisterial system.”