Council considering £6m Argos refurb plan for Birkenhead Market

Wirral Council is understood to be planning to invest £6m of public funds into refurbishing a former Argos unit in Birkenhead.

The former Argos in the Pyramids shopping centre is owned by the council and is the site of plans by the local authority for a “temporary decant” of market traders from the nearby Birkenhead Market into the store. The council said no decision has yet been made on that plan.

It’s understood that a proposed investment plan has been circulated to councillors. This is for an upcoming government pilot project that will see Wirral as one of 10 local authorities given greater flexibility over the use of regeneration funds.

The investment plan was a requirement for taking part in the project and is expected to be submitted to the government by 20 October.

In this plan, the LDRS understands it is outlined how the council plans to use more than £14m of Future High Streets Funding it has received from the government. This includes over £1.5m already been spent on developing plans for a brand new market at the former House of Fraser on Grange Road.

It is also understood to include a plan to use £6m of the funds for a refurbishment of the Argos unit for market traders.

Plans for a move of the market were first reported by the LDRS and since then, the local authority has revealed it spent £24,000 assessing the feasibility of the proposal. One market trader has also openly criticised the plans, calling them “grossly unfeasible” and describing it as a “minimarket.”

A Wirral Council spokesperson said, “The future of Birkenhead Market is of paramount importance to Wirral Council. The Market will be a vital part in the regeneration plans for the town centre and it is critical the Market is delivered in the right way.”

Regeneration committee chair Cllr Tony Jones, at an 16 October, meeting said, “The high-level feasibility for the Argos store confirms the ability for it to contain 64 ten by ten metre stalls and all the required back of house storage and facilities that the traders would require.”

However, in an email sent to all councillors by a trader within the market, the £6m figure was called “an obscene amount to spend on something claimed to be “temporary” and questioned where future funding for a permanent new market would come from.

The trader who did not wish to be named said the council needed to accommodate all the current traders “to achieve a vibrant town centre,” adding, “Constituents and investors will be forced to ask what’ll get cancelled next.

“Who will rent a lovely, shiny office building or set up home on Hind Street from a developer who can’t decide what he’s doing next? This proposal will effectively spell the end of the Birkenhead 2040 project and the promised transformation of the town centre.”

He said, “It’s in everyone’s interest WBC (Wirral Borough Council) delivers a town centre that Wirral can be proud of. The new market is the first big decision Councillors must make on delivering this Birkenhead 2040 transformation.

“The Argos building is not a high-quality showcase building, which we and the Wirral public were promised. It will not be a temporary solution because so much money is being spent on it.

“If the decision is taken to force Traders into an Argos Mini Market, it will effectively kill the market trader’s businesses, and it will drastically reduce the chances of delivering the 2040 transformation Wirral Borough Council has committed to.

“This is a once-in-a-generation decision that will shape the future of Birkenhead. I, and many others, hope Councillors will consider their responsibilities to our existing and future residents. Please don’t cull the market community.”

A spokesperson for Wirral Council added, “At this stage the council continues to look at all options to relocate Birkenhead Market, both in the short and longer terms. As has been reported an initial feasibility study has been completed looking at existing town centre retail premises now owned by the council as a potential temporary site for traders.

“Initial indications drawn up as part of the proposed Investment Plan to be submitted to Government shortly are that this site is large enough to accommodate the Market’s traders. Details of this study are now being finalised to be shared for discussion and feedback at a meeting, to be arranged, with the traders and we expect to begin this very soon.

“This meeting will be an opportunity for all traders to discuss an inclusive approach to securing the future of Birkenhead Market with the team working on this project, and they are encouraged to use this opportunity to do so. Details of this will be shared with traders as soon as they are available.”


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