THE FORMER courthouse in Windermere could be reopened in an effort to provide easier access to justice for residents of South Lakeland.

Since the courthouse in Kendal closed its doors in June 2017, the majority of cases previously dealt with in the town have been heard at Barrow Magistrates' Court and County Court.

This has necessitated a 70 mile round trip for victims, witnesses and defendants - as well as individuals and businesses involved in civil cases - which for those relying on public transport often involves several changes of train or bus.

But Tim Farron, who has represented the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency as MP since 2005 and is currently seeking re-election, has launched a campaign for the reopening of the Windermere courthouse as a way of addressing this issue.

Although Kendal court has now been sold off by the Ministry of Justice, there is still a courtroom attached to Windermere’s police station.

And Mr Farron has suggested that this could be renovated and some cases heard there rather than in Barrow.

He met with justice minister Chris Philp this week and raised the matter, and was told by Mr Philp the move was a possibility but that the police would need to pay for the refurbishment to bring it back into use.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Farron said: “I’m very grateful to the minister for meeting me.

"Access to justice is so important for local people – and the Government just ignored the huge travel times when they closed Kendal court.

“However, using Windermere’s mothballed courtroom for some cases would still meet the Government’s savings targets and provide easier access to justice for local people.”

The closure of the Kendal courthouse came almost 25 years to the day since HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the £2 million building at Burneside Road.

The Westmorland Gazette launched a campaign in 2015 to save the court - Keep Justice Local - which was backed by local solicitors who voiced fury at the Ministry of Justice's decision.