Former House of Fraser site could be new home of Birkenhead Market
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Birkenhead’s former House of Fraser site has been earmarked as a potential new location for Birkenhead Market under ambitious plans being proposed by Wirral Council.
The council has confirmed it will not press ahead with the option of a temporary market at St Werburghs Square following lengthy discussions with the Birkenhead Market community.
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 stay there and remain trading as normal until a new market building is developed over the next few years.
Since the authority bought the market in 2019 it has been looking at how it can once again become the major attraction for visitors to the town centre.
The number of retailers in Birkenhead Market has dwindled to around 60 specialist retailers and it is accepted that the current building does not meet the needs of the market community or customers.
The proposals 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 potentially a new standalone Birkenhead Market building alongside a new residential development.
This new option has now been informally presented to the market community and with consensus more detailed plans can be worked up over the coming months.
The council is committed to having a revitalised market at the centre of the authority’s ambitions for the town centre, which have been set out in the Birkenhead 2040 Framework and which will see massive investment in both the centre and surrounding area of the town over the coming years.
The new Birkenhead Market will seek to re-capture the spirit of the historic 1845 market and create a thriving hub of activity for the community. The council’s vision is to create a new landmark building for the town rooted in this tradition, acting as a beacon for the wider regeneration of the area, creating new flexible spaces within a building that is low carbon, sustainable and energy efficient, and exemplifies the transformational vision for the future of Birkenhead.
The proposed location for this new landmark takes advantage of the site’s excellent visibility from its surroundings, offering the ability to showcase this catalyst project and attract a wide new audience.
Chair of Wirral Council’s economy, regeneration and development committee, Cllr Tony Jones, 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.”
He 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.”
David French, Birkenhead Market Tenants Association chair, 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. 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.”
The former House of Fraser store closed in March last year after the retail group went into administration in 2019, and was then acquired for £2m by Wirral Council in January 2021.