HUGE PLANS: Birkenhead Market move takes a key step forward
Richie Cantilon, a stall owner at Birkenhead Market
Huge plans which could see Birkenhead Market move to the site of the town’s former House of Fraser store are set to take a key step forward.
Throughout most of this year the council wanted traders to move from the current town centre site, where stall owners are still trading as normal, to St Werburghs Square from 2022 on a temporary basis before a new permanent market near the town centre was built.
But after a major backlash from traders, this plan was ditched, with Wirral Council saying there would be just one move to a new permanent market, which was unlikely to happen before 2025.
The preferred site for this move is now the former House of Fraser building on Grange Road, which Wirral Council bought for £2.1m, a sum it will recoup from a grant it has received from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
As well as this sum, the local authority has allocated more than £14m from money it was awarded as part of the government’s Future High Streets Fund to redevelop Birkenhead Market.
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the proposal.
If it backs the idea, it does not guarantee that the plan will go ahead, but it does mean that designs will be drawn up and the prospect of a new market which traders want so badly will move closer into view.
The LDRS went to Birkenhead Market today to see what stall owners think of the proposed move.
Everyone who spoke agreed that the market needed to move, but some had concerns about the former House of Fraser site.
Tom Roberts, who owns Moneysworth Butchers, said he wanted more information from the council, as he had not had enough communication with them about how the plan would work in practice.
While he said that “anything is better than staying here”, Mr Roberts thought there were issues with the House of Fraser site, such as access to parking spaces.
Another trader, who did not want to be named, said they felt the site was “out of the way”.
They added: “[The council] said the market will be at the heart of Birkenhead, but that’s not the heart of the town, it may as well be in Bromborough or Liverpool.”
The stall owner also had an issue with the length of time the move was set to take.
It is thought that part of the solution to the potential location issues may be the upcoming developments in Birkenhead, such as the new office buildings at the former Milton Pavements site, which could bring new customers to the area.
Some traders were very positive about the plans.
Richie Cantilon, who works at the Mobile Junction store, said the move is a “very good idea” and that people “will go for it”.
Mr Cantilon said the stall was doing ok and it was definitely staying at the market.
While there were problems with the temporary nature of the St Werburghs Square plan, he felt that some traders who have left in recent months may be regretting their decision given the new House of Fraser plan.
Sheila Earnden, who runs Away With The Fairies, was also positive about the proposal, saying that it will give people “a nice vista of the market”.
But for Ms Earnden, the most important thing was to get more shops into Birkenhead town centre as a whole.
She noted that WH Smith, M&S, TJs and House of Fraser itself had left the town in recent years, and that it “needs something” to attract more people.
But she was happy with the idea of the move itself, she added: “I think the [current market] building is past its best. We need somewhere that’s modern and fit for purpose.”
Mike Eccles, from Billy Hill Curtains, was concerned about the potential space on offer at the former House of Fraser site, given how big his current market stall is.
Although he felt a move was needed, he was not happy with the location of the potential new market, saying it is at “the a*** end of town”.
Mark Davey, who runs the Games Portal stall, summed up the mood of many traders, saying that although he had not heard a lot about the specifics of the plan, the move was a much better prospect than the idea of moving to St Werburghs Square on a temporary basis.
Wirral Council’s director for regeneration and place, Alan Evans, said: “Wirral Council remains committed to ensuring the market is at the heart of the rebirth of Birkenhead as we move ahead with the town’s biggest regeneration in generations, with £98m of government support secured this year to support comprehensive regeneration across the borough.”
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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