PREPARATORY work on a £1.5million project to connect the new National Civil War Centre, Newark's Palace Theatre and the town's Tourist Information Centre has now begun.

Newark and Sherwood District Council has appointed local construction firm RG Carter as contractors to start work on the visitor information centre, devised to boost visitor numbers to the district, maximise income and help reduce costs.

The centre will have a combined reception for the three council-run operations and a modern, continental-style courtyard café bar and kitchen.

The project is part of an 'attract and disperse' marketing strategy to attract visitors to Newark's Appletongate - home of the newly-opened NCWC and the much-loved Palace Theatre.

The Tourist Information Centre will move from its current Great North Road location at Keeper's Cottage and will form a key part of the new hub – hosting and signposting visitors to attractions and destinations throughout the district.

The vision is for a single reception area to act as a gateway to live entertainment at the theatre, a journey through time in the NCWC or the starting point to a trip to the wider district of Newark and Sherwood.

Combining the three will reduce costs and the new café bar will bring in a ready source of new income throughout the daytime – through the NCWC – and evenings via theatre audiences.

The café will be designed to complement the 1920s theatre and would also be available for corporate events or private parties. An announcement will be made in the near future regarding the catering contract.

The construction work, which will be completed by March next year, has been split into three phases to assist the smooth running of the theatre programme and keep disruption to a minimum, particularly throughout the pantomime period which will go ahead unaffected.

This year's pantomime is Cinderella starring Home and Away's Lynne McGranger and Any Dream Will Do's Keith Jack and will run from December 9 until to January 3. Shows also going ahead as planned throughout the autumn/winter programme include Ballet Theatre UK's Snow Queen (November 5), Psychic Sally (November 12), Beyond The Barricade (November 21), Vampires Rock Ghost Train (February 19), Rumours of Fleetwood Mac (March 4) and much more.

Leisure and Environment Committee Chairman Councillor Tony Roberts said: "Following on from the opening of the new National Civil War Centre, this project is a pivotal part of our tourism strategy and our wider prosperity agenda.

"This development is an important investment to further increase visitor numbers, provide an opportunity to showcase the whole the district and bring in extra revenue while reducing our costs."