Birkenhead Market Argos move confirmed

Birkenhead Market will be moving into a former Argos despite fears it will lead to the end of the market for good.

A market has existed in Birkenhead since 1835 with a current location within the Grange Precinct. For several years, Wirral Council which took over the market in 2019 has been developing plans it said would create a purpose-built flagship new market that would kick start its regeneration of the town centre.

One year ago, it moved forward with plans on the former House of Fraser site on Grange Road with a budget of nearly £28m but these plans have now been dropped after the local authority pulled back in 2023.

Council officers put forward a proposal to move the market into a former Argos under a car park on Princes Pavement but this has been heavily criticised by traders, hundreds who signed a petition, and the town’s Labour MP Mick Whitley.

At a 27 March regeneration committee meeting, councillors from Wirral’s Labour and Conservative parties voted to approve the relocation into the Argos unit following an £8m renovation with an expected date of February 2026.

Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors on the committee voted against the move citing the opposition and criticising the council report for what they said were unrealistic presentations of other options with “an underlying bias” and “wider motives” towards a particular outcome.

Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly put forward a motion supported by the Greens asking for a pause with further analysis on the potential of renovating the existing market arguing risk of losing a £14m grant was unlikely if work was already under-way and communication was kept up with any future government. This and a separate point of order put forward by Green councillor Jo Bird were voted down.

Council officers put forward the Argos proposal saying it would be a cost-effective renovation of a modern building that requires little modification close to public transport links and provide the space traders require while other options were undeliverable. It is planned for the current market site to be demolished to make way for future developments but these were not included in the costs for the Argos plans.

Market traders said they were let down by the decision fearing many of them will be evicted. Credit: Ed Barnes

At the meeting, traders asked why councillors had not been given a leaked report before they made a decision on the market and criticised the lack of space proposed in the new Argos building. Market traders currently use around 17,000 square feet in the current market but said just over 2,000 would be provided for traders raising fears many will be evicted.

The council said the plans were open to change following future feedback from market traders. However, market traders criticised what they saw as an “overall shambolic delivery of this proposal” and said there was zero evidence the council would engage with them going forward.

One trader Greg McTigue said the Argos proposal would be “a glorified canteen for council employees which will move into the new office blocks on site.”

Birkenhead councillor Ewan Tomeny said: “I don’t see how we could proceed in good conscience. Our brief as far as I see it is to bring about successful regeneration and not to spend money on fundamentally unpopular and second-rate options.”

He said not one person had supported the idea on the doorstep, adding, “As far as I see it, moving the market to Argos is not in the best interests of the town or its people. It would clearly destroy local businesses and livelihoods and I consider it would set back the regeneration of Birkenhead.”

In response to criticism of the report, council assistant director Marcus Shaw said, “I committed to developing all of these options equally and that is what we have done. I was very keen to be transparent in the work we have done.” Conservative and Labour councillors also defended the officer report.

Joe Orr

After the meeting, Joe Orr, chair of the market tenants association said, “My faith in politics has been completely shattered. I just feel total disappointment. My family have traded in Birkenhead Market for 50 years and a pause to prevent evictions was lost. It was a total let down.

“I think the future as put in their report is a food court.”

Following the meeting, Cllr Paul Stuart said, “I understand the worried of market traders who are understandably anxious about their livelihoods and the future of their business. I have sought assurances from officers that current market traders will be fully supported and given top priority when moving forward with any new market development.

“Any suggestion to explore options such as extending the deadline for using allocated funds or waiting for a change in government poses a considerable risk to take. There is no guarantee that a delay would be granted.”

He added, “This could have led to a situation where there would be no investment in Birkenhead for a new market resulting in the loss of the crucial grant money allocated.”

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