BUSINESSES in Frideswide Square are infuriated after yet another set of works turned what was supposed to be a clean, modern, pedestrianised piazza into an unsightly mess.

Following the £6.7m renovation of the entire square last year, builders were back this week digging up new paving stones that had started to crack.

Oxfordshire County Council, which paid for the revamp, was yesterday unable to offer any official explanation for why the cracks had appeared, although leader Ian Hudspeth said he guessed heavy vehicles must have been driving over the York stones.

And despite the works starting on Monday the council had not made any contact with the businesses on the square's south side – whose entrances are now blighted by the thunder of pneumatic drills, clouds of dust and piles of stone – to tell them what was going on.

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Musa Yasin, manager of the Mini Station shop, said: "Of course it affects business. People are now not coming in – they walk to the other side of the square.

"I haven't had any letter from the council or heard anything about it. It's not fair they don't let us know for how long it will go on.

"They just keep digging."

One of the engineers working for Drayton Construction Ltd suggested the problem could be down to the soil beneath the pavement shifting after work was finished.

But the fissures are just the latest cracks in the facade of the new Frideswide Square that have had to be solved.

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Engineers have only just finished rebuilding pavements around the eastern roundabout that were destroyed by coaches and lorries driving across them – a project which was estimated to cost about £30,000.

And the £6.7m revamp last year was not even finished when the new bus stops were found to be too short and needed tarmac added at the ends to allow vehicles to enter and exit without driving over kerbs.

The county also admitted earlier this week that some slabs near the train station were cracked and would need fixing before they became dangerous.

Skye Bolter, who works at the Jam Factory just around the corner from Frideswide Square, said: "When they're drilling, people don't want to come in here to have lunch.

"I think everyone around here is frustrated with the roadworks.

"The whole idea of the revamp was to try and help the place come up in the world. With everyone coming from the train station you should have a lot of that going on, but with all the works it's very difficult.

"Since they've done the work it's just been one thing after another, and it's been incredibly difficult for local businesses."

She was not aware of the council sending any information to the Jam Factory about the works.

Adam Johns, who manages Station Barbers on Frideswide Square, said: "It does have an effect on business, especially when they park their van in front of my shop."

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth yesterday said he did not know why the cracks had appeared, but speculated: "It looks as if it is where vehicles have been driving over the pavement, which obviously it wasn't designed for.

"We assume it was delivery vehicles."

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Bays were specially installed in the corners of the new square for delivery vans so they would not have to drive on the pedestrian area, he added.

"It wasn't that we hadn't planned for it, it's vehicles we weren't expecting to be there. But we also had to check underneath to see if the substructure was okay."

Mr Hudspeth said he was still happy with the results of the revamp and insisted the council did not "skimp" on the cost.

He said: "There is always snagging with any project.

"What I would say to everyone is look at what Frideswide Square used to be like, snarled up with traffic. Now traffic is flowing smoothy, reducing cars standing there churning out fumes.

"It is a good, attractive space for everyone to be."

Regarding the impact on businesses, Mr Hudspeth said: "I think during roadworks there is an impact and if they can justify it they can get a refund on their rates."

Mr Hudspeth's deputy leader Rodney Rose said he thought that Skanska, the contractor which carried out the Frideswide revamp, had done its job "perfectly".

He added: "I'm not sure a little bit of pavement works are going to have a big effect on businesses, but I'm sure they're fed up with it."

The Oxford Mail yesterday asked Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree what had caused the cracks, whether it was thought to be a fault with the original revamp and how long the repair works were expected to take.

He replied: "We’ve looked underneath the slabs to ensure there’s no underlying problem. There isn’t. So we will replace the slabs as soon as we can – just as we would in similar circumstances anywhere in Oxfordshire."