THE group behind a city centre revamp is asking people for ideas on what to put on an empty plinth while the landmark statue that stands on it undergoes vital repairs.

The depiction of Lord Londonderry on horseback in the centre of Durham City’s Market Place is to be relocated to the edge of the square in a £5.25m makeover.

There was an outcry when it was hinted at the start of public consultation last year.

The 1861 monument, made from electro-plated copper, will undergo £85,000-worth of repairs by Rupert Harris Conservation, which has worked for the Royal Household and Historic Royal Palaces, the National Trust and English Heritage.

It is expected to take 21 weeks and while the statue is away, Durham City Vision wants people to suggest ideas for a temporary replacement.

Durham City Vision director Harvey Dowdy said: “While he is away we are looking to have a little bit of fun and rather like Trafalgar Square, have some different works of art on the plinth.

“We’ll be asking the public to contact us via the website and give us some ideas on what to put on it.”

The statue, which was last removed for refurbishment in 1951, is the country’s biggest electro-plated copper statue and will be restored to its original dark brown-black colour.

It will be moved to the southern edge of the square, freeing space for events and market stalls.

The statue of Neptune currently next to the parking bays will be moved to Back Silver Street.

Durham City Vision hope that demolition of a wall will give views of the River Wear behind it and encourage more trade for craft businesses in nearby Back Silver Street.

The scheme also includes a mini-amphitheatre outside St Nicholas’ Church, stone seating to replace existing benches, replacement of the stone slab paving and reduction of the slope in Market Place, removal of the six red telephone kiosks outside The Market Tavern, and paving in Saddler Street, Elvet Bridge and Silver Street.

The traffic lights and the congestion charge bollard and other street furniture could also be relocated.

A glass screen at the sides of the bridge, over the A690 Leazes Road, and a ban on vehicles stopping in Market Place between 10am and 4pm are also being considered.

Michael Argue, of Chilton, County Durham, who visited the Town Hall exhibition of the latest proposals yesterday was not impressed with the plans. “They say it is a medieval city but they are ripping everything down that is medieval.

I don't know whether it’s because they are going for City of Culture but it will be a mess,” he said.

Sheila James, of Consett, County Durham, said: “I think it is brilliant. You have the open area of the Market Street and the statue will be seen as you come up Silver Street.”

The exhibition continues today from 10am to 6pm.

People can also visit the website A final scheme will be drawn up in the light of comments made and a planning application submitted during the summer. Work is expected to take place between December and July next year.