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CHANGED VISION: Birkenhead Market move reaction

CHANGED VISION: Birkenhead Market move reaction

Jackie Spraggett, a Birkenhead Market trader

Wirral Council has dramatically changed its vision for the future of Birkenhead Market.

Throughout most of this year, the council wanted traders to move to St Werburghs Square from 2022 on a temporary basis, before a new permanent market near the town centre was built.

Then, two weeks ago, the authority u-turned and scrapped the St Werburghs Square idea, saying there would be just one move to the new market, which was unlikely to happen before 2025.

But after a meeting with market traders last night, the proposed site for the permanent market has changed.

Now, the council wants Birkenhead Market to move to the former House of Fraser building, which has been empty since the store closed in March 2020.

The move is expected to take place in around three years time if it goes ahead.

In the meantime, the current market will remain open for business as usual.

Speaking to the LDRS at Birkenhead Market today, Mark Davey, who runs the Games Portal stall, was happy about the council’s change of heart.

He said: “It’s a good idea, i’m upbeat. We kind of know what’s happening now.

“They [the council] will demolish that site and build the new market, and they’re going to try to promote here [the current market] more in the meantime.

“I think they’re going to try and work with traders more.”

Jackie Spraggett, who runs Smith’s Coffee Pot, was also in favour of the possible House of Fraser move.

Ms Spraggett said: “What they’ve come up with is a good idea if they do what they say they will. Hopefully it will help the market.

“They also need to do something with this market to make it more inviting, but I was never worried, I just wanted to find out what’s going on.

“I think traders feel more positive after last night.”

In a statement published this morning, David French, chair of Birkenhead Market Tenants Association, and a trader himself, welcomed the proposal.

Mr French 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.”

However, several traders were less happy with the new idea.

Kevin Goodman, who runs a clothing stall at the market, said: “I always believed that if it became available there wouldn’t be enough passing trade.

“It feels on the edge of town. You’d only walk past there if you wanted to get to the market.”

Mr Goodman said he wanted to visit the site and see if it was workable, but was doubtful at this stage.

On the council’s attempts to reassure traders last night, he added: “They’re going to try to improve the look of the market, but help with rent is more important.”

Jas Sidhu, who runs Sidhu Fashion, thought the House of Fraser building was “out of the way”.

He favoured a move to the former Marks and Spencer building, something many traders have spoken about favourably in recent times.

He felt the move proposed last night was worse than staying at the current site.

Location problems were on the minds of other traders also.

Tom Roberts, who runs Moneysworth butchers, said the House of Fraser building was “too far” from the town centre.

He added: “If it’s there or nothing then i’ll move, but we need to see what the plan is, what the rent is.”

Commenting on a pledge apparently made last night by council officials to do more to help traders, Mr Roberts added: “They’ve been saying this for the last two months, they need to do it as soon as possible.

“I’ve said they should set up a farmers market and say they can use the stalls for free. It will drive some interest before Christmas when Liverpool One will be too busy.”

Tom Murphy, who runs Murphy’s Spuds, felt his stall was already “isolated” and that moving to House of Fraser would not help to attract more people.

He was another stall owner who preferred the idea of moving to the former Marks and Spencer site.

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.

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

 

Words: George Morgan, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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