NEWS that Knutsford’s historic Sessions House faces closure and could soon be put on the market is experiencing a mixed reaction from Knutsfordians.
The future of the iconic Grade II listed building has been uncertain for a number of years but even more so since the Ministry of Justice announced its intentions to permanently close the court.
The Toft Road building, which has been home to Knutsford Crown Court since circa 1815, will be sold for the sum of approximately £720,000 if the closure goes ahead.
The Ministry of Justice suggested the site could be utilised as a potential improvement or redevelopment site.
Speaking about the potential closure and sale, Tatton MP George Osborne said: “As the building has not been used by HM Courts since May 2010, I know there are lots of ideas in the town regarding its improvement and renovation.
“I would hope that this historic listed building can be put to better use for the benefit of local people.
“That is my priority.”
Knutsford Conservation and Heritage Group said they were pleased that the Ministry of Justice is helping to end the uncertainty regarding the currently unused building.
A spokesperson said: “This is one of Knutsford’s most iconic buildings and is nationally listed Grade II for its special architectural and historic interest.
“KCHG is aware of several potential uses for the building and hopes that viable ideas will be put forward which are consistent with its fine quality.
“The courthouse is one of several vacant or underused buildings in Knutsford. Hopefully this consultation will stimulate progress as to their futures as well.”
Some concerns have been raised, however, over the vulnerability of the historic building to unsympathetic redevelopment.
Val Bryant, a trustee and volunteer of the Heritage Centre, said: “Yet again another Knutsford building of the town past history gone.
“Who cares about Knutsford and its unique architecture of the town? So many old buildings have been destroyed in the town over the last few years.”
Val suggested that the building could be turned into a heritage site, something similar to the Old Crown Court and Cells at Shire Hall in Dorchester.
“They turned their old court house into a heritage site,” she added. “Opening up to show hundreds of years of gruesome crime and punishment, what was it like to stand in the dock, sit in a dimly lit cell, where prisoners waited for their appearance before the judge.
“There is so much to tell about the prison that stood behind the courthouse.”
She added: “Please don’t let this get into the hands of a developer, as what would it be turn into? A nightclub or another restaurant or flats. Save our town’s Heritage.”