BEREAVED families have criticised a decision to move a coroner’s court service away from Southend.

Last week, Essex County Council confirmed County Hall, in Victoria Road South, Chelmsford, will be the main venue for cases heard by the Essex Coroner’s Service.

It offers private meeting rooms for families, juries and advocates and office space for the coroners and staff.

For many years the Rev Brenda Gutberlet, from Canvey, has backed the service staying in south Essex after her family waited two years for an inquest into the death of her niece Natalie Wade, 28, from Rochford.

She was killed as she crossed a pedestrian crossing in Ashingdon Road, Rochford, in 2006. Mrs Gutberlet, a community Methodist chaplain, said her family were supported by the coroner and staff when it was based in Hadleigh.

Now she has described the move 20 miles away to Essex’s first city as a further burden to grieving families.

She said: “It’s all about saving money. I understand the council’s desire to save money, but I’m not sure they have taken into account the grieving families.

“It feels like it is de-personalising the service by taking them from the fringes of Essex.

This will be an added burden to these families.

“Natalie’s inquest went on for a week and to travel that far every day would have been an extra struggle.

“Not everyone has access to a car and public transport links to Chelmsford are not that good.”

Meanwhile Simon and Mary- Jayne Harrison, from Leigh, will travel to Chelmsford next month for the inquest into the death of their daughter Jessica, who died aged just eight hours on September 30, 2012, at Southend Hospital.

Mr Harrison said: “We have a two-day hearing and I guess in a sense it is less convenient, but we’re not too worried.”

Ann Naylor, county councillor responsible for public health and well-being, said: “This new centre will enable the service to provide an environment sympathetic to the needs of those who have lost family and friends.”

A county council spokesman said: “Generally all Essex inquests will be held in the new dedicated coroner’s court in Chelmsford.

“The court offers more appropriate facilities for bereaved families and friends.

“If it is best for the family we would look at holding them elsewhere.”