Wirral Council revealed it has already spent £24,000 of a ringfenced government grant on plans to move Birkenhead Market into the former Argos store.
The local authority is currently reviewing its plans for a new Birkenhead Market, a flagship project that is expected to kick start its major regeneration plans for Birkenhead.
The market is a key part of its Birkenhead 2040 framework setting out how the local authority plans to invest in the town through thousands of new homes, new facilities, and a new public park.
The original plans were to move Birkenhead Market to move to the old House of Fraser building which would be demolished with a brand new market and housing built in its place. This project was expected to cost £28m and be delivered by 2025.
However, the council’s Director of Regeneration Dave Hughes said in September the council was looking again at its plans following the purchase of the Grange and Pyramids shopping centres in the town centre.
The review includes a plan to move the market into the former Argos near the Birkenhead bus station in the shopping centre. The council previously said in July it was not reviewing plans and any review still hasn’t come to committee.
Birkenhead councillor Amanda Omwuemene asked about the plans at a council meeting on 9 October, adding, “What costs have been incurred to date on the potential move of traders into the Argos shop, how are these costs being financed and what are the implications for the already agreed plans to build a new Birkenhead Market on the House of Fraser site?”
In response, regeneration committee chair Cllr Tony Jones said the first stage of developing concepts for the Argos refurbishment cost the council £24,000. He said the move would be “a temporary decant of market traders” but did not give an update on the House of Fraser site.
Cllr Jones added the plans “form part of a high-level viability assessment to maximise the income stream within the centre and to mitigate the council’s void costs.” He said the fees “have been funded from the Future High Streets Fund for town centre regeneration.”
£14m of Future High Streets funding, a government grant, were put aside by Wirral Council for the original plans for Birkenhead Market but following an invitation to join a new trial, it has been given greater flexibility in where this money is spent.
An investment plan will be developed as part of this trial outlining where the money will be spent. The plan will be submitted by 20 October but a report will come to a future regeneration committee meeting.