Wirral Council has plans to move Birkenhead Market to the former Argos store near the bus station.
The current market is located in the Grange Precinct but the local authority was looking to move the market to the old House of Fraser building on Grange Road. This was billed as a major project to kickstart its regeneration plans to transform the town by 2040.
Plans were for the House of Fraser building to be demolished to make way for the new market with costs expected of around £28m and plans to open in 2025. A consultation on the new market was carried out earlier this year.
However, demolition has not started and no planning application for a new market has been made. It is now understood there are plans to move traders at the current market to the Argos.
Market traders said they had been aware the council was considering other options for the market than House of Fraser but the possibility of it moving to Argos was only confirmed to them on 21 September.
A representative for the market traders association said, “The committee are aware the council were reevaluating the St Werburgh market on the basis of our community’s concerns it wasn’t large enough and the council had intonated it wasn’t economically viable.”
Cllr Tony Jones, Chair of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee, said, “The council remains committed to delivering a new market in the heart of Birkenhead town centre which will be sustainable and affordable.
“In May 2023 the council bought the Pyramids and Grange shopping centres which now present opportunities not previously available. If any changes to previous proposals are brought forward they will continue to meet the wider regeneration plans for the borough and Birkenhead, as well as undergoing full consultation, including full engagement with market traders, before any final decisions are made.
“I would also like to remind everyone that Birkenhead Market remains open and there are dozens of traders there who would welcome your business and I urge people to use the historic and much-loved market as we work towards safeguarding its future for many more years to come.”
In a consultation currently being carried out by the council about the St Werburgh’s Quarter in the town centre, the market is still shown in the designs for the House of Fraser site.
The masterplan for St Werburgh’s said, “With the new market building proposed to the former House of Fraser site, this offers an exciting opportunity to link to the creative independent reuse of buildings along Argyle Street and draw this into the heart of the town to create a unique expression of the town and its community.”
No mention of a move to Argos is made in the plans and the council first acknowledged it was reviewing the proposed market at a meeting on 18 September. No information was provided during the meeting about what was being reviewed including if it is no longer moving to Grange Road.
David Hughes, the council’s regeneration director, said at the meeting, “What I would say is things change. We’ve bought a shopping centre, a major asset in the town centre and some of the decisions that have been made about the market need to be reviewed in light of that acquisition.”
The current condition of the market has also been criticised on social media by a shopper who described the situation as “appalling.” Sue Wright posted a video to LinkedIn where she said: “Just so very sad today seeing this. Wirral Council, this needs to be addressed.
“I gave a stall holder the only £30 of cash I had on me after talking to him – he started to cry – these people are hard-working and industrious to set up their own stalls and they are being left to hang out in a ghost precinct. Financially support them please.”
During the pandemic, Wirral Council offered market traders support like free rents and rent reductions over nine months. It has also spent more than £60,000 over the past three years advertising the market.