UGLY tarmac making an ‘abomination’ of a £5.5m market place is purely a temporary measure aimed at avoiding disruption to city centre trade, project bosses have insisted.

A two-foot wide trail of black and red tarmac currently leads from outside Boots in Durham Market Place up Saddler Street and down to Elvet Bridge.

County councillor Nigel Martin said he was appalled at the “ugly run”, branding it an unacceptable disgrace and an abomination.

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But a spokeswoman for electricity network provider Northern Powergrid said it was temporary and had been used because contractors were working overnight only, to avoid causing disruption to nearby businesses.

Adrian White, head of transport services at Durham County Council, said the work involved relaying a faulty electric main and the last length of cable would be laid tonight (Wednesday, April 23), before the area is returned to its original state, including York stone paving.

However, the Northern Powergrid spokesman said no completion date for the work was available, as there have been “difficulties” on site.

The clash is just the latest in the divisive recent history of the historic Market Place.

A few years ago, Durham’s biggest public campaign in decades failed to stop the £5.5m Heart of the City project, which saw the Lord Londonderry statue moved and new seats and paving installed.

Just 18 months after the project was finished, Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods branded the area a tip.

Councillor Martin said: “I understand that underground repairs have to be made from time to time, but when £5m of public money has been spent trying to improve the square, leaving this result is an unacceptable disgrace.

“I have written to the council demanding that the perpetrators of this abomination be made to come back and put things back the way they were.

“I know that many people are against the way the market square was renovated, but then to have to put up with this sort of thing beggars belief.”

He added that the council should have said what was happening in advance publicly.