THERE has been a remarkable public response since the Gazette launched its Keep Justice Local campaign three months ago.

More than 300 Gazette readers have filled in the coupons from these pages urging Justice Secretary Michael Gove to re-think an ill-advised plan to close the magistrates' court in Kendal.

The court has served South Lakeland well since it was established in 1992 and it is hard to see how moving court proceedings to Barrow-in-Furness will benefit local people, whether they are defendants, witnesses or, indeed, victims.

As we have pointed out previously, it is not so many years ago that magistrates courts were held throughout South Lakeland and Eden, with courts in places like Windermere, Hawkshead, Kirkby Lonsdale and Penrith.

Now, to save money the Ministry of Justice wants to close 91 court buildings around the country, including Kendal, which deals with both criminal and civil cases.

This is totally unacceptable. Barrow is 37 miles away from Kendal, which will put a considerable burden on those needing to travel to the court.

Thankfully, the people of South Lakeland have made their opposition to this process very clear and the Gazette has now sent off the 300-plus coupons to Mr Gove.

In an accompanying letter, Mr Gove is made fully aware how detrimental moving the court from South Lakeland would be.

Barrow is a 55-minute car journey away from Kendal - much more from the northern, eastern and southern reaches of South Lakeland. A bus journey takes around one hour 40 minutes and a train trip, requiring two changes, takes between one and a half an two and a half hours.

Attending court is stressful as it is - the extra journey time will be this even worse. It will also make it harder for the Gazette to report local cases and is likely to increase costs for police and solicitors.

But it is not just this newspaper making the case against closure this week. Kendal Town Council has also formally responded to the consultation, saying that the consultation materials and processes 'are so badly flawed as to make the consultation invalid'.

Let us hope Mr Gove takes these matters seriously and is prepared to reconsider.