Wrexham Council has not collected a single penny in rent since the opening of a £4.5 million arts hub and market, new figures have revealed.
It comes amid claims that Wrexham Council is letting down traders at the multi-million pound arts and market hub Tŷ Pawb , which is based in the former People’s Market.
Both a stallholder and a former county councillor have raised concerns about the lack of footfall and said not enough has been done to promote businesses.
The council injected more than £1.5m of its own money into the scheme, which includes two galleries, a theatre, market stalls and a food hall.
But figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show it has yet to recoup anything in rent since the building officially opened in April
Former Smithfield councillor Keith Gregory said he had spoken to a number of stallholders who were unhappy at the lack of support they have received – although the authority claims it is ‘working hard’ to raise awareness of the centre.
He said: “I went into Tŷ Pawb yesterday and had a walk round and there were only three stalls open, all the rest were shut and I noticed that one of the shops had shut completely.
“There’s no trade in there at all and it’s disappointing. The council says it’s doing well, but talking to some of the traders I think they wish they hadn’t gone back.
“They say there is no promotion for them and what they’re doing.
“If you go to other towns like Oswestry and Mold you see signs with arrows pointing to the market and telling you what’s on, but I’ve seen none of that in Wrexham.”
Angie Underwood, who runs the Redcrafts stall, said the situation needed to improve.
She said: “Half of Wrexham locals don’t even know we are in there.
“Hence probably the reason when Keith Gregory walked through, if it was early we started opening later due to lack of trade, or if afternoon (we) packed up early again through lack of trade .
“As traders we feel bitterly let down on the advertising front. We need to get the word out there is a market in there .”
The project was jointly funded by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government and the local authority, but drew criticism from several former People’s Market stallholders who chose not to move back to the revamped building.
There were also accusations of a lack of support for businesses which relocated temporarily while refurbishment works were ongoing.
But Wrexham Council said visitor numbers have increased at Ty Pawb during the summer holidays with several events and exhibitions in place.
They added that the delay in collecting rent was because of new contracts and billing arrangements being agreed.
A spokesman said: “All of the rent due from tenants of Tŷ Pawb in 2018-19 will be collected during the financial year.
“Although no rent has yet been collected, as noted in the response to the FOI, the billing process is underway and the payment is due – no income will be lost due to this process.
“We have liaised with tenants throughout this process and they are aware that the billing process is due to be completed.
“We are working hard to continue to raise awareness of Tŷ Pawb, locally and beyond, during our first few months of operation.
“We continue to work closely with traders to address any outstanding concerns and to help them promote their own individual businesses, ensuring we can work together to maximise the potential of Tŷ Pawb as we progress through our first year.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).