THE leader of Wrexham Council has launched a spirited defence of a £4.5 million market and arts hub which has been heavily criticised by a former trader.

Politicians in Wrexham are set to consider a report on the running of Ty Pawb tomorrow covering its first seven months since opening.

The document was called a “slap in the face” by Andy Gallanders, who ran the Blank Canvas coffee shop in the centre before closing it in September.

He disagreed with claims in the report that businesses left because of general issues affecting the High Street and said his departure was because of poor management.

Mr Gallanders also described the estimated visitor numbers of 53,000 as “simply not good”.

However, despite the comments, Cllr Mark Pritchard believes the hub still has the potential to be a success.

He said: “I think what we need is to go back and remember Ty Pawb before it was Ty Pawb and what it was.

“It was a market and a car park above it that was not working and it was failing.

“What we could have done as a council, we could have sold it.

“We thought we could something with it and we thought that part of town needed something.

“We put political backing into it to turn it into what we’ve got now.”

According to the report, the centre’s financial outlook is positive despite a predicted deficit of more than £173,000 during its first year.

That figure is set to be offset by payments from the council’s arts service budget of around £139,600, resulting in a shortfall of £33,492.

Visitor numbers were higher than expected and include 10,000 people who attended the opening day celebrations.

Cllr Pritchard has now asked people to back the centre instead of criticising it.

He said: “It’s very early days for Ty Pawb. It’s new and starting off on a journey and I hope the journey is successful.

“I think there are too many people out there who want to knock it and I think they should try and help to support it as much as they can.

“For far too long people have said to me that there’s nothing in Wrexham and all the money goes to south Wales.

“We’ve got a facility there which can be managed and it could become a success, but only the future knows that.”