WINCHESTER'S civic chief has welcomed the deal to use the city Guildhall as a temporary court.

Council leader Lucille Thompson said: “One of our highest priorities at the moment is to help our high streets recover, and so I am delighted that HM Courts and Tribunals have signed an agreement with the city council to use the Guildhall as a 'Nightingale Court' for the next nine months.

"Not only will this help our local economy and businesses by driving up footfall and bringing people back to the centre, but it also ensures that one of our very special buildings is being made use of during these challenging times.”

Use of the Guildhall has been drastically reduced since March and 11 or the 13 members of staff have been placed at risk redundancy. It can in theory still be hired but no staff or catering will be provided.

The Guildhall was last used a s court whilst the Law Courts were being built in the early 1970s.