Former House of Fraser site could become historic market’s new base

By George Morgan

A Merseyside town’s historic market could be set for a huge move, after previous plans were quashed.

A fortnight ago, Wirral Council abandoned plans to temporarily move Birkenhead Market to St Werburghs Square.

Now it is charting a new course, with the town’s former House of Fraser building, which has been vacant since March 2020, earmarked as a possible new site for the market which has been a feature of Birkenhead since 1835.

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This means the current Birkenhead Market continues to be open for business as usual at its site in the town centre, near the bus station, and will remain open as normal until a new market building is developed over the next few years.

In recent times, the number of traders in Birkenhead Market has dwindled to around 60 specialist retailers and the council says the current building does not meet the needs of the market community or customers.

The proposal being put forward would see the House of Fraser building demolished and the creation of new public realm space linked into St Werburghs Square, with a potential standalone Birkenhead Market building alongside a new residential development.

This option has been presented to traders and more detailed plans are set to be worked up over the coming months.

Wirral Council said it is committed to having a revitalised market at the heart of its major plans for regenerating Birkenhead, which include more than 600 new homes, more leisure spaces and new food and drink offerings.

Cllr Tony Jones, chair of Wirral Council’s Economy and Development Committee, said: “We have been clear from the outset that we want Birkenhead Market to succeed and we will do what is necessary to make sure it becomes the very heart of Birkenhead town centre.

“We have listened to what the market community have been telling us and acted.

“What I want to see is the council and market community working together to achieve the best option for Birkenhead – their success is dependent on our success in revitalising the town centre, and vice versa.

The Labour councillor added: “This latest proposal ensures that the market remains at the heart of the rebirth of Birkenhead as we move ahead with the town’s biggest regeneration in generations.

“In the meantime – Birkenhead Market remains open for business so please shop local and help independent traders there and across the borough.”

David French, chair of Birkenhead Market Tenants Association, said: “We are pleased to be working with the council towards a mutually acceptable solution for a new Birkenhead Market and look forward to jointly developing plans that will keep the market and our community at the heart of the town centre, enabling us to serve current and future generations for many years to come.”

Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley said: “The plans for the regeneration of Birkenhead are exciting and I welcome them with open arms.

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“A vibrant market can and must be at the centre of these plans and I am hopeful that with the proposals for a new site now on the table constructive partnership working can begin between the council and the market retail community.

“I am optimistic that the retailers will see that the new proposals can restore our market to its rightful place as a major attraction in Birkenhead for both the town’s residents and for many visitors from across the region.”

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