Temporary court building still being used after 35 years

Ushers and support staff at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Hollybush Hill are being balloted.

Part of Snaresbrook Crown Court was originally intended to be temporary - Credit: Ken Mears

A temporary court building erected 35 years ago is still in use today despite government assurances that it would only stand for five years.

In 1987, Redbridge Council granted permission for the temporary building containing five “crash courts” next to the main Snaresbrook Crown Court building, a Grade II listed gothic orphanage built in the 1840s.

However, the annex building was still in use eight years later and, despite the council’s objections, the government’s justice ministry insisted on keeping it permanently.

At the time, in 1995, council planners said the temporary building, now known as the “annex,” had a  “utilitarian and at odds” design next to the main building.

According to Historic England, the former orphanage was designed by “one of England’s greatest architects” George Gilbert Smith, who also built the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Midland Grand Hotel and Albert Memorial.

In response to a recent story on a temporary extension being added at the moment, a spokesperson for the department now responsible for the courts, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the annex was “never intended to be temporary”.

But a 1995 planning report, obtained through a Freedom of Information request made to Redbridge Council, tells a different story.

Records show Redbridge Council’s conservation advisory committee called the design “totally inappropriate”, as it was next to a listed building designed by a renowned architect and fell within two protected zones, the green belt and Snaresbrook Conservation Area.

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The report concluded: “Its continued presence on-site on a permanent basis would detract from the special character and amenity of this unique site, and from the setting of the Listed Building.”

According to a spokesperson for HMCTS, all available courts are needed to deal with a backlog of cases, and there are “no outstanding planning issues” with the annex, which was built before the agency existed.

A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said although it objected in 1995, it will not seek to have the building taken down due to the “significant amount of time” that has passed.

They added: “Planning laws and regulations are drastically different to what they would have been some 27 years ago. 

“With that in mind, we are not currently minded to pursue any form of enforcement action against the applicants of this structure – one that has been in place and serving the people of east London since the late 1980s.”