CLAIMS that a £4.5m market and arts hub is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Wrexham have been rubbished by backbench politicians.

It follows a turbulent opening period for Ty Pawb, which is based in the former People’s Market building, including complaints by traders over the impact of ongoing building works.

There was also a dispute between business owners and Wrexham Council over contracts, which resulted in some leaving the centre.

However, Cllr Hugh Jones (Con), the authority’s lead member for people painted a positive picture of the facility’s first seven months of opening yesterday.

Speaking at a meeting of the employment, business and investment scrutiny committee, he said: “I think by any measure Ty Pawb is a success story and we only have to look at the achievements.

“First of all it was delivered on time and on budget which I think is fairly unique in terms of projects of this size.

“The number of visitors coming to Ty Pawb are such that it’s anticipated in the first year we will at least double the prediction in the Fourth Street business plan.

“What we’ve achieved in Ty Pawb is something which is exciting, it’s unique and it’s a jewel in Wrexham’s crown.”

Earlier this year, ten stall holders wrote an e-mail to council leader Mark Pritchard, branding the project a ‘health and safety nightmare’.

The authority subsequently met with them and offered a concession of 30 per cent on top of an existing 20 per cent rent discount for the period between April and June, when contractors were still on site.

Figures in the report presented by Cllr Jones showed only half of the £20,000 expected in rental income has been collected to date.

Among the most vocal critics of the hub’s performance was fellow Conservative councillor Rodney Skelland, who said he had received numerous complaints about the venue.

He said: “People say you’ve spent £4.5m on that place and they walk through and there’s been very few people there and it certainly does generate a lot of discussion in my ward.

“When you speak to the market traders they say that one of the things they don’t have is customers.

“It’s a very rosy picture you’re painting but what are the long term prospects really?”

His comments were echoed by Cllr Geoff Lowe, who said: “I don’t entirely agree with the lead member’s view of it being the jewel in Wrexham’s crown, I think that’s pretty rich Hugh.”

According to the report, around 53,000 visitors have been attracted to Ty Pawb so far, ahead of the target of 50,000 for the first year.

Approximately £1.5m was put into the facility by the council, which was supplemented by £2.3m from Arts Council Wales and £700,000 from the Welsh Government

But Labour leader Dana Davies questioned the level of subsidy being provided to it at a time when the authority is looking at making cuts of £9m next year.

Cllr Marc Jones (Plaid) also accused the council of making traders an ‘after thought’.

He said: “What makes Ty Pawb unusual is it’s marrying an existing use, the market with the arts hub.

“The truth is there’s some indignation, there’s been lots of toing and froing and there’s been discounts offered after a lot of bad feeling.

“If the perception is that traders are added on as an after thought then that marriage won’t work.”

However, Cllr Hugh Jones launched a staunch defence and branded some of the project’s critics as ‘keyboard warriors’.

He said: “When I started talking about this a few hours ago I listed a significant number of positives about Ty Pawb.

“Ty Pawb is a success, there’s no question about it.

“In terms of the traders, the traders are definitely not an afterthought, they’re an integral part of Ty Pawb.”

Councillors voted to receive a further detailed report on the centre’s progress next year.