Evidence submitted by the Department for
Constitutional Affairs (DCA)
This paper responds to the Constitutional Affairs
Committee's request for information as part of their Supreme Court/Middlesex
Section 2: Building selection;
Section 3: Refurbishing Middlesex
Section 4: Timetable for refurbishment;
Section 5: Maintaining the number
of sitting days in London following the closure of the crown courts
at Middlesex Guildhall.
SECTION 1: BACKGROUND
1.1 Establishing a Supreme Court for the
United Kingdom separate from the House of Lords will increase
the transparency of the separation of powers and responsibilities
between the executive (Government), the legislature (Parliament)
and the judiciary (judges).
1.2 At present the final court of appeal
is the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. The UK Supreme
Court will be an independent institution that replaces the Appellate
Committee. It will:
hear appeals on arguable points
of law of general public importance;
act as the final court of appeal
for civil cases in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland;
act as the final court of appeal
for criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and
assume the devolution jurisdiction
of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), while the
Commonwealth jurisdiction of the JCPC will remain unchanged.
1.3 Providing the Court with its own building
is a physical demonstration of the separation between the judiciary
and the legislature. It also allows members of the public to have
greater access to the Court compared to its current location in
the House of Lords.
1.4 Establishing the UK Supreme Court at
Middlesex Guildhall offers an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate
an historic London building and will allow the Supreme Court to
sit comfortably in a location befitting an organisation of this
1.5 Sitting opposite the Houses of Parliament
and alongside Westminster Abbey and the Treasury Building, the
location will symbolise the Supreme Court as a cornerstone of
our constitution rights in this country.
1.6 There is no criticism of the quality
of the justice dispensed by the Appellate Committee and so the
focus of the Supreme Court Programme is to deliver an appropriate
setting for what will be one of the most important institutions
in our country.
1.7 We will also take the opportunity to
co-locate the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the same
SECTION 2: BUILDING
2.1 In 2003 a statement of requirements
for the building to house the UK Supreme Court was agreed in conjunction
with the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. The headline requirement
was for an appropriate building within a one-mile radius of Charing
Cross of approximately 3,800 square metres, including three committee
rooms, a library and ancillary accommodation for the Justices
of the Supreme Court and their support staff. Estate Agent Knight
Frank then undertook a property search and evaluation exercise
on behalf of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
2.2 This initial search generated a long-list
of 48 properties but only five of which, after closer scrutiny
against a number of criteria (size, operational efficiency, adaptability,
and suitability), merited further consideration.
2.3 The properties concerned were:
Central and Staple Court, WC2commercial
4 Mathew Parker Street, SW1Crown
New Wing, Somerset HouseCrown
Field House, Bream's Buildings
EC4DCA estate property; and
Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square
2.4 In addition to the five identified buildings,
Middlesex Guildhall was also recorded as having met the majority
of the evaluation criteria, however the operational impact upon
London Criminal Business was felt to be detrimental to its overall
2.5 Following discussion between officials
and Ministers on 29 October 2003, Field House and 4 Matthew Parker
Street were removed from the short list as they were not suitable
locations for the new Court and it was agreed to expand the search
to within a two mile radius of Charing Cross. The Project Team
was also asked to consider new build opportunities; the decision
was also taken to re-evaluate the viability of Middlesex Guildhall
on the basis of reproviding the criminal courtrooms elsewhere
2.6 Knight Frank was unable to locate any
suitable private sector sites for development within a two mile
radius of Charing Cross, reflecting the state of the central London
property market. Two potential locations within the DCA London
estate, St Dunstan's House and Stewart House were added to the
list for consideration.
2.7 On 5 January 2004, Ministers and officials
reconvened to discuss a revised short-list:
Central and Staple Court;
New Wing, Somerset House;
Stewart House (new build);
St Dunstans House, (new build);
2.8 It was agreed that a green book style
evaluation would be carried out on these properties. Turner and
Townsend and Knight Frank evaluated all properties on the short-list
with the exception of Somerset House as the relevant enquiries
with HM Treasury, Inland Revenue, Somerset House Trust and DCMS
2.9 Ernst & Young then carried out financial
analysis of the short-listed options including consideration of
the potential procurement options available, with regard to providing
advice to the Project as to the preferred building/procurement
option. EC Harris undertook a feasibility study into the technical
viability, options, costs and timescales of providing the additional
Crown courtrooms and a series of meetings were held with representatives
from English Heritage and Westminster Council Planning Authorities
on the proposals for renovating the Middlesex Guildhall.
2.10 Officers and Ministers again considered
the short-list in light of the evaluation above and against a
number of criteria, including functional suitability, deliverability,
prestige and location, and value for money and affordability.
The analysis supported Middlesex Guildhall as the "front
runner" (based upon lease disposal/leaseback solution).
2.11 By June 2004 the short-list was down
to two properties, Middlesex Guildhall and the new wing of Somerset
House. After much discussion and a series of stakeholder events
(including a visit to the Guildhall and Somerset House by the
Law Lords) Middlesex Guildhall was chosen for four key reasons:
Its location on Parliament Square;
It provides the key design requirements;
It delivers much improved accommodation
at a reasonable cost; and
It is an opportunity to ensure
the longevity of the building, as its current use would need to
be reviewed in the short-term.
SECTION 3: REFURBISHING
3.1 Renowned conservation architects, Feilden
and Mawson, were appointed to develop the renovation plans. We
have worked very closely with the Law Lords to define their requirements
and with English Heritage and Westminster City Council to ensure
that the required works are sympathetic to the building.
3.2 The changes are to provide an appropriate
setting for the new Supreme Court on Parliament Square. The main
changes are to level the floors in the courtrooms, create space
for a modern law library, reverse recent interventions that have
left the building feeling cluttered and improve public access.
Most of the building's original features such as the wood panelling
and carved wooden bench ends in the historic courtrooms, ornate
ceilings, light fittings and fixtures, stained glass and the entire
Middlesex Art Collection will remain unchanged. In fact, their
appearance will be improved because the renovation will allow
more light into the building.
3.3 The Crown Courts at Middlesex Guildhall
do not meet current design standards. The deficiencies include
poor facilities for jurors and witnesses, absence of secure circulation
routes and in particular the lack of a secure van dock with no
realistic prospect of being able to add one, or a safe alternative,
in the future. Middlesex Guildhall is the only Crown Court in
London without this facility and is within the Government Secure
Zone. Greater intervention in the building would be required to
solve this problem compared to that which is needed to house the
3.4 These issues would have to be addressed
in the near future making it impossible to keep the building in
aspic. The renovation will assure the longevity and full use of
3.5 We believe that our plans will bring
benefits to the building and to its users.
3.6 It will provide an opportunity to refresh
an historic London building and to guarantee its use for a considerable
period of time to house one of the great institutions of state.
This is particularly appropriate given its setting on Parliament
Square. Whilst breathing new life into the building we will be
able to ensure that the building is fitted with appropriate facilities
to ensure that it is compliant with all the current standardsmost
notably to give access to disabled people who might wish to visit.
3.7 Our plans are heavily influenced by
conservation. These plans will make less intensive use of the
building than the current use as a Crown Court and will peel back
much of the insensitive work that was done to the building in
the 1980s when the majority of the current Crown Courts were constructed.
In particular we will restore the original lightwells and original
layout historic interiors artwork and memorabilia as we possibly
can. For example the Middlesex Art Collection is now in the process
of being cleaned and will be re-hung in the building once the
renovation work is complete.
3.8 One of the prime drivers behind setting
up the Supreme Court is to encourage public access to the highest
court in the Land. We will do that by altering the entrance ways
and internal circulation spaces, removing clutter where possible.
SECTION 4: TIMETABLE
4.1 The Supreme Court was planned to open
for hearings in October 2009. These plans were drawn up on the
assumption that the existing Crown Court would vacate the building
at the beginning of April 2007 and renovation would start immediately.
This would then allow time for the renovation to complete in February
2009 and allow the new Institution to be delivered ready for October
4.2 Since the Judicial Review was lodged
by Save in January 2007 we have had to re-assess our plans and
the opening date of the Supreme Court is now heavily dependent
on the successful granting of "clean & implementable"
planning consent. It is because of this urgency that a second
planning applicationexactly the same in all material senses
as the existing one under Judicial Reviewwas submitted
on 9 March 2007.
4.3 In the meantime we continue to support
Westminster City Council as an Interested Party in their defence
of the Judicial Review.
SECTION 5: MAINTAINING
5.1 The Middlesex Guildhall will close on
30 March 2007 and will be vacated in the first fortnight of April
2007. This date was set and agreed with other criminal justice
agencies in 2006 to enable the renovation to start in April 2007.
5.2 From 1 September 2006, committals from
Central London started going to Wood Green. From 1 November 2006
cases that were heard at Middlesex Guildhall are now committed
to Southwark. The Crown Courts at Middlesex Guildhall are now
focusing on completing work rather than taking on new cases.
5.3 To fill the gap between the closure
of the Crown Courts and the long-term solution (ie new courts
at Isleworth) we have implemented transition plans that aim to
deliver the same number of sitting days in London following the
closure of Middlesex Guildhall.
5.4 In order to achieve this target, Courts
are introducing new ways to increase their utilisation levels
eg using non-jury courtrooms where practical and improving Listing
5.5 However we recognise that this does
not provide a long term solution and so we plan to provide an
additional five Crown Courts at Isleworth. Following on from an
earlier rejection of our planning application our appeal on 18
December for planning permission at Isleworth was granted. We
are now in discussions with our preferred construction partner,
Geoffrey Osborne, to finalise the arrangements for the construction.
5.6 Construction of these additional Crown
Courts at Isleworth are scheduled to commence in June 2007 and
complete in Autumn 2008.