Demolition work on former House of Fraser store in Birkenhead expected to finish by March – but with plans for a new market on the site now shelved what will happen next? Tony McDonough reports
With the demolition of the former House of Fraser department store in Birkenhead now well under way the next question is – what will be built on the site.
Wirral Growth Company, a 50:50 joint venture between Wirral Council and developer Muse, acquired the building in 2021 backed with a £2.1m grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Backed with Government cash from the Future High Street Fund, Wirral Council unveiled plans for a new £28m development on the site, comprising a new Birkenhead Market and a number of residential apartments.
However, it was revealed late last year that Wirral Council’s subsequent acquisition of the The Grange and The Pyramids retail centres in May 2023, had led to a rethink by the council on the regeneration of Birkenhead town centre.
In December a council report conceded the plans were now unaffordable. An alternative plan being pushed forward will see a new permanent market created on the site of the former Argos store.
A final decision has yet to be taken on this alternative plan. The original plan would have seen a new market delivered by 2025.
In December a spokesperson for Wirral Growth Company told Birkenhead News: “No decision has been made on a permanent location for Birkenhead Market.
“As already indicated, there have been ideas, suggestions and proposals considered to varying degrees of detail for the new market but at this point no final determination has been made.”
Contractor Forshaw is overseeing the demolition of the former House of Fraser building, which closed as a department store in 2020.
Forshaw has already completed the internal fixtures soft-strip of the site and begun demolition of the building from the rear car park, continuing to work from the back of House of Fraser. The front elevation is due to be demolished in the coming weeks.
Hoardings are being placed at the front of the former House of Fraser building and will run alongside the pavement to Grange Road, meaning pedestrians will still have access to the town centre from the pavement opposite and there will be no road closures.
And the next question still to be answered is what will be built on the site. Last year Wirral Growth Company delivered two new office buildings in the town backed by £75m of institutional investment. It’s an example of what is possible.
But for now Wirral Growth Company is keeping its cards close to its chest on what will come next for the House of Fraser site.
Steven Knowles, director of development management at Muse, said: “Last autumn we were pleased to see the completion of the first phase, marked by the handing over of the two most sustainable office buildings in the Liverpool region
“ And with the demolition of the former House of Fraser building now underway, Muse is continuing to drive positive change which will create a brighter Birkenhead for local traders, businesses, and residents.
“The town will benefit from this regeneration which is fit for the future, all centred around delivering innovative spaces for residents to enjoy and where businesses can thrive.”