RICHMOND'S Georgian Theatre Royal will re-open four months later than expected after setbacks involving the original contractors.

Restoration work costing £1.4m is now due for completion in June with a formal re-opening ceremony pencilled-in for September.

Work began a year ago on the grade I listed building and it was hoped that it would re-open this spring. However, extra work was needed to secure foundations of the eighteenth century building and further hold-ups resulted when the original contractor, Walter Birch, went into liquidation and the contract was terminated.

New main contractors, Walter Thompson, were appointed and the services of main sub-contractors were retained, meaning work could continue with little disruption.

The first stage of the project includes restoration of the auditorium, a bar, caf and cloakrooms, new stairs and lift, refurbished backstage, better lighting, sound and heating and disabled access throughout.

A total of £1.1m has been secured towards the refurbishment, with efforts under way to raise the remaining £330,000.

The second stage of the project includes building close links with schools and the community, developing the theatre's tourism role, extending the season and recruiting a full-time manager and education, technical and marketing posts.

Lady Crathorne, chairman of the theatre trustees, said: "We are delighted with the progress now being made but there are still a number of challenges to overcome before moving on to secure the revenue funding needed for the substantial developments in stage two.