MIDDLEWICH town centre is getting a Roman-style makeover to transform it into a modern-day amphitheatre.
Work started this week to turn the Bull Ring into Middlewich's own Colosseum, which will be a venue for outdoor performances and provide a dramatic and attractive 'gateway' to the town centre, thanks to a £350,000 scheme.
Congleton Borough Council is investing more than £236,000 into the project, which is being undertaken in partnership with English Heritage, the Northwest Development Agency, Middlewich Town Council and Cheshire County Council.
The Bull Ring is viewed as an important gateway into Middlewich and the amphitheatre would complement improvements at the site, including better bus stops, street lighting and a taxi rank.
Middlewich councillor Alison Roylance-White said: 'I think it's tremendous. It's going to look so much better, the amphitheatre is going to be brilliant.
'When we first started this project all we were looking at was keeping the Bull Ring at the same level, with steps going round, so now to start the excavation of an amphitheatre is fantastic. It will open the whole site up.
'It all started four years ago with the Roman Middlewich Project and it is going to look so good. Now we need to look at attracting traders to the town to back it up, but the more attractive Middlewich is the more attractive a proposition to new investors it will be.'
Earlier this year Middlewich Town Council won £59,700 from the Rural Recovery Scheme, with the rest of the cash coming from partners in the scheme.
The war memorial will be moved within the site, following a request from the Royal British Legion. The project is expected to be completed in March.
Cllr Chris Nield, the borough council's executive portfolio holder for the environment, said: 'I'm very pleased that this scheme is going ahead, which is a tremendous example of partnership working between all the parties involved.'
Louise Wallace, the borough's senior conservation officer, said: 'Everyone involved is excited about the creation of a new heart of the town, which will help local businesses by encouraging more people to use the shopping area, as well as a place for recreation.'
The amphitheatre will also house the market, moving it away from the car park at the back of Somerfield, and conditions are attached to funding that it must house at least eight outdoor events every year.