NEATH AM Gwenda Thomas has today condemned the decision to close Neath magistrates court.

Commenting on the announcement, Amman Valley-based Mrs Thomas said she was extremely disappointed with the decision as "90 per cent" of the respondents to the consultation opposed closure.

"Judging from the numerous letters, emails and phone calls I received this reflects the opinion of the community at large,” she said.

Despite widespread opposition Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service have announced that they intend to press ahead with the plan to close the court and move its business to Swansea. The Neath Port Talbot and Swansea Local Justice Areas will also be merged to form a new West Glamorgan LJA.

Mrs Thomas continued: “I, and many others, made strong arguments for retaining the court service in Neath. This decision will harm court users, the administration of justice and the economy of Neath Town centre.

“By substantially increasing the journey time for witnesses and defendants, this move will lead to more missed court dates, more cancelled trials and more expense."

The Courts and Tribunals Service also rejected alternative proposals to move Neath Magistrates’ to the nearby County Court.

“Until the consultation the move to the County Court was widely anticipated," said Mrs Thomas. " As late as 2011 the Courts and Tribunals Service believed this to be a reasonable option.

"The County Court is in a town centre location and immediately adjacent to the Police Station. If the Magistrates’ had to move this would have been to natural and logical alternative.”