THE man in charge of the controversial revamp of St George’s Square admitted yesterday that the Chinese granite was pinker than he expected.
And John Griffiths told councillors that Yorkstone couldn’t be used in the £4m revamp because it would end up stained by leaking old taxis.
Kirklees Council’s head of economic development service was also challenged about the spiralling costs of the redevelopment and asked why the completed square was different from the original design.
The new-look St George’s Square – complete with waterfall and fountains – was officially unveiled last month, a year behind schedule.
The use of pink Chinese granite in parts of the square was heavily criticised by some Huddersfield councillors.
Mr Griffiths was questioned about the revamp yesterday by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel for Regeneration.
He told councillors: "Certainly when the stone was laid, it was pinker than we expected, and pinker than the samples. I think the materials will blend in over time, but when they were first laid, there was a bigger contrast than anticipated."
Mr Griffiths defended the use of pink Chinese granite for the roads in St George’s Square. He said: "There was a lot of discussion about whether to use Yorkstone or granite. A lot of taxis are quite old and oil drips from them. Oil stains on Yorkstone are a problem, the only way to get rid of it is to lay new stone.
"The granite should last considerably longer than the old setts did."
Mr Griffiths added that St George’s Square had been in a bad state before the revamp.
He said: "The lower part of the square was in very poor condition. It never actually had high-quality materials. A lot of the stone setts had started to work themselves loose."
Mr Griffiths told the panel that the final look of the square differed only slightly from the design which was agreed by Kirklees in 2007.
He said: "The road network is the same as is car parking. There are fewer trees to allow better access for events and the planters planned for the bottom of the square were not installed to make it easier to have events. The statue of Harold Wilson is in a slightly different position.
"In my view what’s been built fits very closely with what’s been agreed by the council."
But panel member Clr Robert Iredale disagreed. The Golcar Lib Dem said: "There seem to have been a lot of little changes. When you add them all together you get a completely different end product. At what stage were elected members brought in to decide?"
Mr Griffiths replied: "There were lots of discussions at all stages."
He was also challenged about the spiralling cost of the regeneration. In January 2007 the cost was put at £3.1m, but by October 2007 this had risen to £3.8m. Mr Griffiths said: "Work is ongoing to find out about costs."
The panel also heard from members of the public, including Chris Marsden of community group Huddersfield Gem.
He criticised Kirklees for saying it would complete the square in six weeks when it took over from Wrekin after the contractor went into administration in March.
Mr Marsden said: "It seemed at the time that it couldn’t possibly take six weeks – it would have taken an army to do it."
Mr Griffiths agreed. He said: "I think six weeks was optimistic. We had to literally pick up the pieces."
Mr Griffiths was asked why the revamp had attracted so much negative coverage in the Examiner. He said: "The media will report what they wish. It doesn’t do any good if the Press are always slagging people off."