New owners of town's former courts say they have big plans for the building
Southport-based Access Point Ltd are now the proud proprietors of the disused justice building on Albert Road
New court owners Amanda and David Robershaw and Jeanette Morgan
A leading Southport firm has taken on one of the resort’s landmark buildings in what it calls a new and exciting redevelopment project.
Access Point – which employs more than 35 people – is now the proud owner of the former North Sefton Magistrates’ Courts on Albert Road.
The doors to the former courts were closed for the last time in October 2011 following 71 years of legal history, leaving the justice building empty.
But last Tuesday, the retail promotion company – headed by co-owners David and Amanda Robertshaw and Jeanette Morgan – received the keys for the former courts.
Talking to the Visiter, Amanda said that as their business is doing so well, they were in need of some more space – having outgrown their current office above Russell and Bromley in Lord Street.
With the move, the firm will also be looking to create more than 15 extra staffing positions.
“We chose this building because it is so iconic. David is a Southport lad, he was born here, and now we have our family here too,” said Amanda who is married to David.
“Having driven past it, we thought wouldn’t it be lovely to have – then when it came up for auction we realised it was going to be quite a good deal for us.”
Amanda said that at auction in Aintree, the company was competing against a business- man who wanted to turn the site into a restaurant and a club, and a Chinese family who also had plans for a new restaurant.
“To us, what was important was staying in town, we are very active in bringing staff on and investing in them – so it was important for us to allow them to stay in Southport so they could still go about their business,” she added.
“It would have been cheaper for us to go out of town in terms of a new premises, but it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the staff or the ethos of our company.
“There is also a distinct lack in Southport town centre of suitable office sizes – there are small ones or really large ones, but no medium sizes – so we saw a lot of potential in this building.
“Now we feel we have bought the cheese and that at the moment we are having a little nibble on it.”
With more than 26,000sq ft to work with, Amanda said it is more space than they need and that they hope to open up some of the vast building to other businesses in future.
She added: “We are not planning on knocking the building down, we just want to revamp some areas.
“It served a purpose with a lot of resort residents over the years – to have it just wiped off the map would be a travesty. It is part of Southport – we do not want to change the building.”
Amanda said that as a company they will be spending more in terms of investment than what they paid for it – with all the development set to take place in phases.
Currently talking with architects on how they can work with the space of the site, Amanda said they have a few ideas already.
With cells, three court rooms, a large atrium, basement, public galleries, judges’ chambers, many other rooms and a roof space to work with – Amanda said the company is ‘‘really excited’’ about the future.
“There is a lot of space – it really is a rabbit warren,” said Amanda. “We are intending to leave court one completely as it is, and hope to register it with a film company just to see if anyone wants to use it.
‘‘With the public galleries, we could do a cinema or film event in the court. There are so many different things that can be done with the place – we do not have plans for all of it at the moment.”
Amanda also told the Visiter that they intend to keep the ornate wood panelling, legal themed insignias, parquet flooring and restore many of the art deco features.
The company will also utilise the roof space for summer staff barbecues, events and a breakout space and will use the atrium as a pop-up area for an art gallery or other projects – calling it a real ‘‘blank canvas’.’
‘‘For me it really resonates with the initial ideas of Southport with people like William Atkinson, who were all about benefiting the town and furthering that. “For me, we are echoing was has gone before,” Amanda added.
“It is beautiful in such an austere way – but it is also very typical of 1920s architecture. Everything we will do will echo that.”
Amanda said that English Heritage looked at the building to list it as a good example of architecture of that time, but decided against doing so because it ‘’was not unique enough’’. It is also just outside the Lord Street conservation area.
Wanting to keep as much of the building as it is, Amanda added: ‘‘We will be hopefully making it less intimidating and just repurposing the building – it is such a wonderful space and design.
‘‘Anything that is original we will not be covering that up. To keep those things is part of the interest for us... it is why we bought it – we did not just want a concrete box.
“It is a big project, but one that is really exciting for us all.”
With both the police and fire station as neighbours, Amanda added, laughing: “It is very secure here.”
By Georgina Stubbs