Agenda item

Birkenhead Market Options


The Assistant Director for Property and Regeneration presented the report of the Director of Regeneration and Place. The report noted that the current Birkenhead Market Hall was an aging building, operating inefficiently and the Council had been considering options to re-locate the market to an alternative market site for several years. The report noted that at a meeting of the Committee in December 2023, the Committee had agreed the recommendations of a report to progress the development of the design of the Princes Pavement option to RIBA Stage 3, appoint a market consultant to further develop the market operating model and then bring back the outcome of this work to the Committee for a decision. The report set out other options that had been considered in the past, discounting them for practical reasons. The Committee had also reviewed the capital cost of re-locating the existing market to a new purpose-built market hall on the site of the former House of Fraser Store (HOF). The capital cost of delivery for the HOF proposal was £31.6 million based on July 2023 figures and there was an emerging funding gap which could have a significant impact on the Council’s financial position. Furthermore, Policy and Resources Committee on 17 January 2024 resolved amongst other matters to reduce the capital budget for the new market project making the HOF proposal unaffordable. The report made recommendations regarding the feasibility of the House of Fraser options.


In recognition of recent engagement with Birkenhead Market Tenants Association, Committee also agreed that further feasibility work would be undertaken on two options, the St John’s Pavement option and a refurbishment of part of the existing Birkenhead Market site. The Committee also agreed to pause market development work on the House of Fraser site whilst this work was undertaken. Issues associated with the development of the HOF site for the purpose of a market were reported, including its financial viability.


The report considered by the Committee at this meeting reported back on those details.


Raymond Linch of Market North West Ltd, who had been employed as a market design consultant, attended the meeting and gave some personal background, noting that he had helped develop around 300 markets in the UK and had worked around markets for most of his life. He stated that looking ahead 10 to 20 years was important to how market design would be led. He noted that there was a smaller cohort of shoppers using markets currently and that it was important to try and increase appeal to a wider base of shoppers without alienating the current base. He summarised the findings of the report regarding the other potential sites for a market in Birkenhead and explained why they had been discounted in the recommendations due to size, logistics and money. He noted that the designs shown within the report were not final and that further consultation with traders would be made before a final design was agreed.


Members discussed the findings of the report, with some stating that they were sceptical of them, querying whether the alternative options to the Princes Pavement site were as un-viable as the report suggested. They also raised that  Mick Whitley MP had stated publicly that he was not in favour of the Princes Pavement option and questioned how the proposed option could deliver on the ambitions of the people of Birkenhead.

Officers responded that a market in Birkenhead was central to the Council’s regeneration strategy and that it linked to the Birkenhead 2040 Framework. The Council’s intention was for the new market to be there for the next 50 to 70 years.


Councillor Stuart Kelly made a proposal which was seconded by Councillor Ewan Tomeny as follows:


“1.  The Director of Regeneration and Place reports back with a more detailed report to the next convenient meeting of this Committee to develop the option of refurbishing the existing Birkenhead Market Hall, such report to include;


  i.  A detailed cost appraisal of refurbishment option tailored to align with available resources,

  ii.  A detailed business plan for the operation of the market to include how new businesses can be attracted to the market and add to its vitality.

  iii.  A detailed analysis of how the market contributes to the regeneration aspirations of the Council having regard to the principle of the Birkenhead 2040 strategy.

  iv.  Details of a proposed consultation exercise with the public to inform the design and to integrate any feedback into the potential development of a refurbished market.


2.  The Director of Regeneration and Place continues to liaise with funding bodies including LCR and DLUHC in order that they are fully informed of the Council’s ambitions for regenerating Birkenhead in line with the Birkenhead 2040 Framework and the emerging Local Plan.


3.  The Director of Regeneration and Place be authorised to notify Wirral Growth Company LLP that it does not wish to proceed with the development of the House of Fraser site pursuant to the relevant Development Service agreements that have been entered into between the Council and Wirral Growth Company LLP.”


Members raised concerns regarding Councillor Kelly’s recommendations around the delays that would come if they were agreed and the risk to the capital funding that this might cause. Officers noted that the Council had until March 2026 to spend the money provided by the Pathfinder Programme for the market, if the proposed option in the report was not agreed, it could mean that the funding would be lost. It was also noted that if Members agreed to Councillor Stuart’s recommendations, market traders would have to be re-homed while refurbishment work was undertaken at the current market site at a cost of up to £3 million.


Members noted that there was a high degree of opposition to the Princes Pavement proposal from traders, local residents and local politicians.


The motion from Councillor Stuart Kelly was put and lost (4:7).


Councillor Jo Bird proposed that the debate on this matter be adjourned to a future meeting and this was seconded by Councillor Ed Lamb. The motion from Jo Bird was put and lost (4:7).


The Chair proposed the recommendations as laid out in the report and this was seconded by Councillor Andrew Hodson.


Members continued the debate based on these recommendations. They noted that very few negatives for the Princes Pavement option were listed in the report and did not make reference to the fact that a lot of the current traders were against it. They queried the costs of the proposal, suggesting that the cost of demolition for the current market should still be included within the proposal for Princes Pavement.


Officers noted that all proposals had been carefully considered and the best option recommended to Members.


Resolved (7:4) – That


1.  The Princes Pavement option to deliver a new market for Birkenhead, which will require remodelling, refurbishment and fit out of the interior and some changes toits external façade and outside areas be approved;


2. The Director of Regeneration and Place be authorised to:


a.  Notify Wirral Growth Company LLP that it does not wish to proceed with the development of the House of Fraser site pursuant to the relevant Development Service agreements that have been entered into between the Council and Wirral Growth Company LLP;


b.  Allocate up to a maximum of £13.7m towards the costs of the delivery of the new market;


c.  Using an appropriate procurement pathway:


  i.  procure and appoint a design team to complete the design for the new market;


  ii.  place the physical works to deliver the new market out to tender; and


  iii.  let the contact to deliver the works to remodel, refurbish and fitout the interior of the new market and make changes to its external façade and outside areas as required to deliver the scheme;


d.  Progress any applications for planning, building control or highways approval that may be required to progress the new market scheme;


e.  Undertake a consultation exercise with the public to inform final design / integrate feedback into the development of the design for the new market;


f.  On completion of the new market, progress with the decant of the old market; and


3.  In taking forward the proposal for the market, it be endorsed that the Council shall work in close collaboration with key stakeholders, as appropriate, as part of a partnership-based approach. This will include other events and activities related to the market in collaboration with stakeholders, including market traders as part of the delivery of the scheme.


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