Some Tŷ Pawb traders have told us they are very keen to pay rent after it was revealed nothing has been collected from stallholders since the centre opened, and have accused Wrexham Council of dragging their feet in getting the paperwork sorted.
Yesterday Wrexham Council said “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”, something that has raised eyebrows with some traders as they do not have any agreements in place.
We have been told, by traders wishing to remain anonymous, “We want to pay rent, as we know we have to, but we need the conditions and timings to be right, as they have changed since it opened.”
Another trader we spoke to was very specific about when they felt rent should be paid from, at odds to the Council’s expectation of rent from early April: “We are looking to pay from when the building was completed, so July.”
“People should know traders were and are supporting the centre, and committed to it, without knowing the terms and contracts. We have done our bit.”
“We are not getting free rent. We have not been able to negotiate the correct leases. The Council have said ‘sign that’, but we can’t as there are problems with it, for example the documents said Tŷ Pawb is open 7am to 10pm but it is not.”
“The contracts are not reflective of the actual trading situation, the business plan indicated a late night evening, big event plans, however that is not happening.”
They laid the blame at Wrexham Council’s door on the lack of rent being paid: “In all seriousness they have not asked for it. They have not given us bank details, or agreements. It is them not us. It is all so glacial to get things going. This has been a four year project, why weren’t contracts or leases or licences in place before opening? Who should of sorted it, and why was it not done?”.
When Freedom of Information requests are placed to Wrexham Council the questions are often circulated, as you would expect, to people in therelevant departments. Wrexham.com did not place the FOI that triggered yesterday’s story, however knowledge of the query was known to us last week. This week has apparently seen a new push to get agreements in place, with some linking the imminent publication FOI to a reported recent flurry of connected activity over the last few days.
One trader told us: “The traders came to Tŷ Pawb on goodwill, and wanted to see it be a success. That is why we came in with no contracts in place for opening.
Concerns have also been raised over the staffing by Wrexham Council, “The marketing Officers were not in place at the start, and only last week we have had actual caretakers.”
Yesterday Wrexham Council assured taxpayers that no rental income would be lost due to the contractual and billing delays, however one trader told us: “The builders only left in July, so there is a question why people should be paying full rent for what was a building site until last month.”
We are told initial Heads of Terms between traders and Wrexham Council referred to supplementary documents, that were not provided when asked, meaning some traders were being asked to sign paperwork without seeing the full documents it referred to, “We have had revised heads of terms since then, but even then they were not there.”
A request for a low three figure contribution to legal fees for the council agreements has also not gone down well with some traders.
Traders also recounted to us how they had requested the opening readings of utilities to prepare them for electric or water bills, being told they were zero, but that was not verifiable by the traders themselves.
Tensions appear high between traders and Council management, with vague hints of legal action against Wrexham.com regarding re-publishing already public comments made by traders, and even alleged reluctance for contractual documents to be allowed out of the Tŷ Pawb building, which was at odds with one person wanting their solicitor to look over any paperwork.
Another trader told us they were concerned a licence not a lease was being offered, as that could have future implications if they ever wished to sell their business, saying that they started trading thinking they would eventually be agreeing a lease.
Yesterday signage and promotion of the centre was specifically mentioned, and defended, prompting an angry reaction from one trader that is unprintable but firmly noted there is a common query by visitors of where the toilets are due to inadequete internal signage.
Earlier today we checked out the external signage, with the Butchers and General Market having lots of signage nearby for both the markets themselves and events taking place. The Techniquest events in the old TJ Hughes were also well signposted, however that contrasted with the event and markets signage for Tŷ Pawb
Lots going on – and has been comments about no signage…. so had a nose! pic.twitter.com/wg9gAOYVto
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) August 23, 2018
Looks like job fair inside Tŷ Pawb – and checking out signage nothing on the A board for that – and map for visitors a couple of meters away still says Peoples Market pic.twitter.com/0Z8qaAXJI0
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) August 23, 2018
Tŷ Pawb has been described as being “on budget and on time”, despite building works on the site overrunning past the official and public opening events.
In September 2017 it was announced that Tŷ Pawb would not immediately be placed into a trust as was intended due to legal issues that could have meant a non-Wrexham trust operating the development. As as result the site is being operated by Wrexham Council for at least three years – with plans to establish an advisory board pressing ahead apparently as planned.
The business plan, which was formulated in by consultants in 2015, provides details on the recommended governance model for Tŷ Pawb, projected finances and a ‘sensitivity analysis’. In December Cllr Hugh Jones said this original business plan was still being followed, a position consistently held, however recently we have been told various elements have in-fact altered.