SURPLUS stone from the construction of Darlington's Pedestrian Heart cost the local council more than £57,000, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Hundreds of square metres of granite setts were left over at the end of the £9m pedestrianisation project in 2007.

However, when the surplus stone was sold on, Darlington Borough Council received only a fraction of the money the authority paid for it.

The council has said it bought a sensible amount of granite for the project and sold it at the best possible price.

The figures have come to light following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the council by The Northern Echo.

The information scotches rumours which have been circulating in the town in recent years that surplus stone on the Pedestrian Heart was sent to landfill.

However, critics of the project have said it is a further indication of the bad management of the project, which went more than £2m over budget.

In 2009, the council said it would be unable to recover the £780,000 bill when a gas pipe was damaged during the works, because of missing paperwork.

The latest information received from the council shows that there was a surplus of 769sq metres of granite setts on the Pedestrian Heart.

The original cost of the materials was estimated at £72,400. The stone was advertised in the trade magazine Contract Journal in July 2008 and the successful bidder bought it for £14,981.25, at a loss to the council of £57,418.75.

Raymond Smith, a retired engineer, who has spent several years campaigning for more information about the cost of the Pedestrian Heart, said he was appalled at the latest news.

He said: "My first inclination is how on earth the council could pay for goods that weren't in the scope of work?

"It's absolutely despicable - if this were in private business, heads would roll for something like that.

"The people of Darlington deserve to know what's going on."

Earlier this year, a report from auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers said there was no need for further investigation into the Pedestrian Heart scheme because all the relevant information was in the public domain.

A council spokeswoman said: "We bought a prudent amount of granite to ensure that we would have enough to cover any possible contingencies.

"We sold the surplus at the best possible price."