THE long-awaited £8million restoration of a Northwich landmark looks like it will finally start in April.

A specialist team has moved on to the site of the Lion Salt Works, in Ollershaw Lane, in preparation for work to start once the project has won planning permission.

In a major step forward for the ambitious scheme, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) has revealed it has appointed Wates Construction as its partners, which is in turn working in partnership with restoration contractors William Anelay.

The archaeologist who will oversee the restoration has also taken up his post.

Industrial archaeologist Chris Hewitson will be responsible for monitoring, investigating and recording the buildings and finds unearthed during excavations.

He said: “My work will provide an extra layer of knowledge to what we currently know about the site.

“It can be likened to peeling back layers of paint which have been added over its 200-year industrial history to reveal more about what was happening during each phase.

“It’s a very exciting project to be a part of.

“The Lion Salt Works site is unique in the UK and therefore has a very significant archaeological importance.”

The salt works, built in1894, is expected to reopen in spring 2014 as a living museum, giving visitors chance to find out how the works operated and how the industry impacted on Cheshire’s people, economy and landscape.

Its restoration is being funded by a £5million Heritage Lottery Fund grant and £3million from CWAC.

John Shannon, business unit director for Wates Construction in the north west, said: “We are delighted to have been chosenas partners on this restoration project, which will see us working within Marston’s community.

“We have extensive experience in heritage refurbishment and are committed to ensuring the redevelopment of this Scheduled Ancient Monument will be led with the utmost care and committment.”

Proposals for the scheme will be considered by CWAC’s planning committee on March 20.