A CONTROVERSIAL £5.25m city centre regeneration scheme was officially completed yesterday – but remained divisive to the end.

While Coun Neil Foster predicted Durham’s Heart of the City (HoC) revamp would win over “even its most vociferous critics in time”, Durham MP Roberta Blackman- Woods boycotted the unveiling after branding the scheme an accident waiting to happen.

Addressing a crowd in Durham’s Market Place, Coun Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and econ o m i c development, said the project had met with overwhelming public support, but this produced heckling and shouts of “rubbish”.

A small group attended the unveiling in mourning dress.

HoC has seen Durham get new paving and street lights, some side streets opened up and By Mark Tallentire mark.tallentire@nne.co.uk the Lord Londonderry on horseback statue moved across the Market Place.

It began despite huge opposition – a 6,000-name petition was set-up – has been repeatedly delayed – including by bad weather and the discovery of 30 skeletons – and has invoked the fury of longsuffering traders.

Even now, some work outside the Market Place is still to be completed.

Yesterday’s ceremony saw Durham County Council chairman Dennis Morgan, Durham Deputy Mayor John Wilkinson and schoolboy Stefan Szablewski unveil a timeline telling Durham’s history.

Stefan, ten, was chosen because he suggested the timeline in a letter to the Durham Times in December 2009.

He said: “I think it’s really nice. I like that it looks like a tree that’s growing.”

Coun Foster said: “It has been an ambition to see our beautiful city retain its historic beauty, but be fit for modern purposes since the Durham City masterplan was formed in 2007.

However, Janet Gill, from the City of Durham Trust conservation group, which led the fight against moving the Lord Londonderry statue, said: “I feel the money’s been wasted. I look to the centre where the statue used to be and I miss it.”

Dr Blackman-Woods has called a meeting to discuss the scheme, to be held in St Nicholas’ Church, Market Place, Durham, on Thursday, July 21, at 6.30pm.