The future of an iconic Burton building remains uncertain after pub chain Wetherspoon’s confirmed it will not be converting Burton's historic court building into a bar and restaurant, following speculation about the next steps for the building.
Businesses and residents have already had their say on what should be next for Burton Magistrates’ Court – and opinion is split.
Apart from the obviously hilarious suggestion of turning it into a Costa Coffee - which would make it the sixth in the town – a proposal to convert it into a Wetherspoon’s pub has been quashed by the firm itself.
A spokesman for Wetherspoon’s simply said that because it owns the Lord Burton, in High Street, in the town, it is not looking to acquire a second. And it is even less likely that the older part of the court could be turned into flats due to its listed building status.
A housing development firm, Cameron Homes, said that while it was always looking new opportunities, the court’s listed building status would create a range of issues.
Paul Morrissey, the firm’s production director, said: "Cameron has developed several sites in this area and we are always looking for new opportunities. However, as the magistrates’ court is a listed building it would present us with a range of issues in terms of conversion and renovation."
The court was built in the early 1900s and is Grade II listed, and a more modern extension was later attached in the 1980s.
It has been almost a year since justice chiefs controversially closed the Horninglow Street courthouse despite a campaign, publicised in the Burton Mail, which attracted more than 2,000 signatures.
Its court cases were then transferred to Cannock and Derby’s Southern Derbyshire magistrates’ courts, as well as North Staffordshire Justice Centre, in Newcastle under Lyme.
Protesters, both from the field of law and members of the public, said the closure would mean forcing victims to travel further to give evidence and lead to a higher number of defendants unable to afford to make the longer journey.
Claims that the court was running at below capacity made by the Courts and Tribunals Service, which conducted the review earmarking the court for closure, were dismissed by the Burton Mail after a Freedom of Information request revealed it had been busier than five years previously when it took over cases from the-then closed Tamworth court.
The justice chiefs also claimed it would save taxpayers £200,000 a year. However, another Freedom of Information request by the Burton Mail revealed that in just four months since its closure, the disused court had cost £51,000 to maintain.
As time moves on, the court building is falling into disrepair and its usually perfectly preserved grounds are already overgrown.
However, this hasn’t stopped residents from dreaming about what it could become and posting on the Burton Mail’s Facebook page. Popular suggestions, if a little sarcastic, include a Costa Coffee shop.
Martin Sainsburys and Geoff Cross both claim we need more Costas in town – as five isn’t enough, while Mark Redfern suggested a gym – making it just another in a long line which are planned for the town.
Dan Brass even killed two birds with one stone, proposing a gym with a Costa inside.
Joking aside, there were more sensible ideas from Burton Mail readers such as creating an area for children, as Emma Bradburn suggested: "Soft play or something for the kiddies to do."
Rossinii Campino, agreed, saying: "There is literally nothing to do in Burton for kids unless it's a soft play. I would kill for the bowling alley back."
Helen Sainsbury added: "I would like bowling or something for our kids to do."
Lisa Hawksworth suggested it become a youth club to keep children and teenagers off the street.
Kim MacBeth came up with the suggestion of bringing Burton’s former museum back to life. She said: "It should be a museum. Burton lost its museum on the corner of Station Street and Guild Street in 1980, its contents sent out to other museums elsewhere.
"Some artefacts sit in storage. We need somewhere to showcase Burton’s history, a teaching aid for schools. The opportunity not to lose touch with our past and hopefully, get our artefacts back."
Kim Denny believes a Wetherspoon’s would sit well in the court, with the company having turned other old buildings into thriving businesses.
She said: "Maybe a Wetherspoon's will rescue it as they do with wonderful old buildings. Look at the old Turkish baths and ballroom in Harrogate. Amazing buildings saved by them."
And there are other readers who simply want their court to return to the town, and local justice along with it.
Jill Smith, Scott Burton and Denise Sowter gave this idea their seal of approval, while Ignas Sy said: "Turn it into a court. Criminals wouldn't have to travel to a different town to face justice."
Kevin Bentley agreed, saying: "Turn it back in to a court. It makes sense. People have to travel further afield now which is ridiculous."
Jono Stone said it would be a waste of money if it wasn’t a court. He said: "Bring it back. It is costing more money just standing there."
Ownership of the court has now been transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency, a Government body which reuses buildings as housing. This news was welcomed by some readers, who suggested affordable housing or a homeless hostel would be perfect.
Sheila Jackson and Cheryl Anslow proposed the affordable homes idea, while Skippy Shane and Amanda Sidwells believe the homeless could benefit from a hostel.
However, Elaine Shaw said a similar fate befell Swadlincote's magistrates' court, saying: "They pulled the magistrates' court down in Swadlincote, built loads of flats in its place."
Meanwhile, other readers revealed different ideas.
Lisa Fisher said: "Offer affordable offices to the businesses being evicted from the Imex business centre."
Brenton Talbot believed a live music venue would work, saying: "Turn it into a multi-room club playing different music in each room. That would be interesting and no trouble with police next door."
However, Stuart Slater doesn't hold out much hope for its future saying its lack of parking will be a massive hindrance. He said: "Not much else it could be used for. The parking is for police only."