Council plans to secure £32m take significant step forward

CGI of HM Courts and Tribunal Service new entrance at Newcastle's Civic Centre
CGI of HM Courts and Tribunal Service new entrance at Newcastle's Civic Centre

Newcastle City Council ambitions to generate income to help fund crucial council services through their Civic Centre refurbishment programme have taken a significant step forward, as plans for courts services to move into the building near completion.

Negotiations are now at an advanced stage for a long-term lease with HM Courts and Tribunals Service, which could see the civil and family courts and tribunal hearings move into Civic Centre.

The programme, which has a target of £32 million of income over the next 25 years, is transforming the Civic Centre into an efficient and modern working environment, preserving this important building whilst also creating attractive space to generate income.

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said: “This partnership with our new, long-term tenant not only secures a sustainable future for one of the iconic Grade II Listed buildings in the city, but importantly it helps us generate income that will fund vital front line services for our residents.

“The Civic Centre belongs to Newcastle and to everyone who lives, works and visits the city, and we were committed to protecting this important asset and enhancing such an iconic building, and making it fit for the 21st century.

“In July 2015 we set out ambitious plans for Civic Centre, and back then we knew that we had to take an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to meet the financial pressures we faced by investing to save for the future.

“Our focus is very much on creating a civic quarter in the city centre, through bringing public sector partners and their services together with the council and pooling our resources. This not only improves the services we all deliver to our residents and businesses, but puts Civic Centre firmly at the heart of that civic quarter.”

Mark Swales, North East Delivery Director for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said: “We’re committed to the continued delivery of justice in Newcastle.

“Subject to necessary agreements, this lease would bring together Civil, Family and Tribunals work in the Civic Centre and help to deliver a Criminal Justice Centre in the city – bringing Magistrates and Crown court work under the same roof in the Combined Court on the Quayside.

“We have a world-leading legal system and are investing £1.1 billion to reform and digitise our court estate to deliver swifter justice.”

HMCTS is dedicated to reforming and modernising the justice system, and providing fit for purpose courts of the future as part of radical £1.1 billion court reforms.

This tenancy agreement, subject to approvals, will contribute to the continued delivery of justice in Newcastle.

Newcastle Magistrates Courts would move into the Combined Court to create a united Criminal Justice Centre on Newcastle’s Quayside.

A masterplan has been developed for next phase of the Civic Centre refurbishment programme, and these plans are now live on the council’s planning portal. This is part of a wider public estate strategy by the council and other local and central government partners.

This includes proposals to reconfigure the Civic Centre’s main entrance, providing a new front door for the public, with designs led by Newcastle-based FaulknerBrowns Architects and Aura NorthEast.

Nick Heyward, Project Director at FaulknerBrowns Architects said: “Council services have been carefully redistributed to promote greater operational efficiency and consolidation, which has allowed space for HM Courts and Tribunal Service to occupy areas of the Civic Centre, thereby optimising building use and generating commercial income for Newcastle City Council.

“The plans unveiled today represent a unique opportunity for such a key landmark public sector building to continue to serve the people of Newcastle in the heart of the city. The opportunity offers a chance to strengthen and enhance the listed building, promoting connection and engagement with the public realm whilst at all times respecting the significant features that contribute to the building’s character.

“These proposals allow Civic Centre to adapt to the demands of modern times, ensuring its intended use is retained and preserving the significant listed features that makes the building an icon of public services within the city and regionally across the North East.”

Phase one of the refurbishment Civic Centre’s Tower Block is now 50% complete. This has already improved the energy efficiency and significantly reduced the running and maintenance costs of the building.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the Insolvency Service have both moved into the eighth floor of Civic Centre as new tenants since the refurbishment programme began. Other tenants include Northumbria Police Occupational Health and the German Consulate, alongside other public services including the Coroner’s Court, Births, Deaths and Marriages, Public Health services, creating a hub for public services and civic quarter in Civic Centre.

Cllr Forbes added: “Our initial programme of work focused on updating areas which we could rent out to accelerate rental income, and we’ve made significant progress on this. We are on track to deliver the targeted £32 million of savings and income over the next 25 years.

“But crucially we must remember why we’re doing this. Our financial challenges still remain, and the Government have been very clear that by 2020 we are on our own. Consolidating public services in this way to generate income and achieve economies of scale helps us meet these challenges head on.”

It is envisaged HM Courts and Tribunals Service will relocate to Newcastle’s Civic Centre in summer 2019.

Media contacts:

Newcastle City Council:

Ann Bridges | 0191 277 7414 | ann.bridges@newcastle.gov.uk

Ministry of Justice:

Alice Booth | 020 3334 4872 | alice.booth@justice.gsi.gov.uk