Derby Magistrates’ Courts

Derby Courts interior
Derby Courts interior

Region: East Midlands

Unitary Authority: Derby

Funding Body: Government's Private Finance Intiative

Year of Intervention: 2000

Summary: Adapting historic courts to the needs of modern justice- one of the most important purpose built court buildings in the country is rescued through careful re-use.

Description: The Grade I listed County Hall, dating from the 1650s, is one of the most important purpose-built court buildings in the country.  Together with its early nineteenth-century court rooms, and associated Judges’ Lodgings and County Hotel, the complex had stood vacant for over ten years. A turning point for the building was the decision by the Derbyshire Magistrates’ Courts Committee and Derbyshire County Council, with support from the then Lord Chancellor’s Department (now the Department for Constitutional Affairs), to include the site within a major scheme for new magistrates’ courts throughout Derbyshire. This was procured under the Government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Issue: Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and English Heritage all recognised the importance of re-establishing court use on the site within a scheme which retained and repaired the most important buildings.
Strategy: A conservation brief was produced at an early stage of the project to guide the bidders, each of which subsequently developed a conservation plan for the site. One of the most difficult challenges posed by this project was to create a workable circulation route for the various users of the new courts without sacrificing important historic features. In order to achieve this, English Heritage agreed to the demolition of an early nineteenth-century wing at the rear. This has allowed a new extension to wrap around the retained historic court rooms. The successful bidders were Derbyshire Courts Ltd (Babcock & Brown). Their project team has worked closely with Derby City Council and English Heritage over the past three years to implement the detailed scheme that was granted listed building consent and planning permission in 2000. Specialist contractors have been used to deal with various conservation challenges including repairs to the stonework, adaptation of the court furniture and conservation of the Royal Coat of Arms. A conservation manual is being developed to guide the management of the building over the term of the PFI contract.
Outcome: The building has now been removed from the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. The completed project demonstrates that, through the hard work and commitment of all the parties involved, historic courts can be successfully adapted to the demanding functional requirements of modern justice.

Keywords: repair, reconstruction and restoration; re-use

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