Wirral Council has revealed the first designs as it looks to move Birkenhead Market into a former Argos.
The former Argos within the Pyramids Shopping Centre sits behind the town’s bus station and is where the local authority is looking to move Birkenhead Market, which has existed since 1835.
The move of the market to Argos, first revealed by the LDRS in September, has been controversial with Birkenhead’s MP, opposition councillors, and traders who said they’ve been kept in the dark about the plans.
According to the council, the former Argos “is considered to be a strong alternative location for Birkenhead Market subject to a more detailed design exercise and consultation with the market traders and other stakeholders.”
In May, leaked emails suggest the local authority’s regeneration boss David Hughes cancelled plans to move Birkenhead Market to a brand new facility at the site of the old House of Fraser (HOF) on Grange Road. Market traders had been generally supportive of this proposal, which was due to head for planning approval once designs were complete.
A council report said in light of the decision to purchase the Pyramids and Grange shopping centres in May, “a review of vacant units was undertaken to determine if any units of the right size (based on the size of the HOF option) or location could accommodate a market offer that could be delivered at a reduced capital cost.”
However, councillors were told in June a planning application for House of Fraser would be submitted and it wasn’t until September that the plans were revealed to be under review.
This study, which the council paid £24,000 for, found the Argos could accommodate between 60 and 70 three-by-three metre market units but market traders argue this is too small. The council said a market delivered on the HOF site by the Wirral Growth Company, a council joint development company, would provide 58 to 70 three-by-three metre stalls.
If councillors were to take the plans forward, “this would allow a robust cost design and cost analysis to be completed in parallel with a proactive engagement strategy with the market traders. It would also allow an operational model that defines the future purpose of Birkenhead Market and the potential for it to be located in the Argos unit to be developed.”
This will cost the council no more than £200,000 to develop which will use Future High Streets Funding. This is on top of £1.57m costs Wirral Council spent over the summer continuing to develop the House of Fraser plans, which will now be funded using Wirral Growth Company profits previously allocated to fund the brand new market.
For the market to stay where it is in the Grange Precinct, the council said there would still be a need for investment in the building over the next five to 10 years, previously around £40,000. Due to the age and condition of the building, the council said it would need to invest £100,000 and £150,000 a year with a forecasted annual deficit of £464,427.
Images credit: Corstophine and Wright