The campaign to save Ballymena courthouse has been dealt a severe blow with its recommended closure put to the Justice Committee.
Its closure was among a series of recommendations to rationalise the court estate in Northern Ireland outlined to the Justice Committee on Thursday.
It was recommended that - “Ballymena should close” and that following a review of court business levels “that with some modest adjustment to the court calendar all business can be transferred to Antrim rather than being split between Antrim and Coleraine”.
Just two days previously, local UUP MLA Robin Swann had called for a “last minute reprieve” for the town’s courthouse.
He said plans to close Ballymena’s historic legal facility would be “yet another blow to the town”.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this closure of the courthouse would be a retrograde step, given the strategic importance of the building in Ballymena, the important service it provides to the region and the aesthetic value of the building itself. In addition to its striking appearance it also represents a significant physical symbol of law enforcement in the town and surrounding area,” he said.
A DoJ spokesperson said: “The consultation document set out the challenges facing NICTS in the context of diminishing resources which meant that continuing to operate the current 20 courthouses is no longer sustainable.
“The Justice Committee has today been briefed on the outcome of the consultation process and on a series of recommendations currently under consideration by the Justice Minister...At this stage no final decisions have been made. The Minister will take time to reflect on the views of the Justice Committee and will make an announcement in the new year.”