Wirral Council bought the 70,000 sq ft department store earlier this year for £2m and has informed market traders it is being lined up as the location for a modern market hall.
The creation of a new market hall has long featured in the 15-year regeneration strategy for Birkenhead, being delivered by Wirral Growth Company, a joint venture between the council and Muse Developments.
The original plan was to demolish the existing market hall, which is deemed not fit for purpose, and to temporarily relocate traders to a site on St Werburghs Square.
However, in late September, Wirral Council confirmed it would not press ahead with the option of a temporary market after concerns were raised by traders.
Instead, the 60 stalls that make up Birkenhead Market will stay put until a permanent replacement building is ready. The council is now proposing this be constructed on the House of Fraser site.
The proposals 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 new residential development”, the council said.
More detailed plans are to be worked up over the coming months following further discussions with traders.
In February, Birkenhead was awarded £24m to go towards the regeneration of Birkenhead from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, much of which is earmarked for the creation of the new market building.
Other options previously considered as potential locations for the new market include the former B&M and M&S sites. A replacement structure on the existing market site was also considered.
“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,” said Cllr Tony Jones, chair of Wirral Council’s economy, regeneration and development committee.
“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.”
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.”