A HUGE tent is being put up in the Market Place as work to restore the building’s historic Victorian vaults gets under way.

Restaurants, bars and retail units will occupy the vaults and a nine-screen cinema will also be built in the shopping centre.

The tent will cover a large area of the ground floor — which will be cut out to expose vaults beneath.

Contractors are piecing together the tent structure in the main mall to cover the cut in the floor.

Escalators will eventually be installed to take shoppers to the 25,000 sq ft basement level where a range of leisure outlets will be installed under the bricked archways of the former market.

The 1,200-seat cinema — which will be positioned on the upper floors of the centre — will be operated by cinema firm The Light.

The nine screens will range in size from 80 seats to 270.

Market Place manager Nikki Wilson-Cook said: “What has been so important to us the whole way through this eight-month process is that the community we serve can visualise the changes we have planned to make here at Market Place.

"So the tent structure really signals a milestone for us and is one of many more to come.

“There is such huge potential in Bolton for a family friendly night-time economy and we have been thrilled with the support we have received.

“We know that with the introduction of the vaults and the cinema, Bolton will be put back on the map as a place for people to enjoy their leisure time and a real destination in the North West.”

Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said he was really looking forward to seeing the plans take shape.

He added: “Everything is starting on time and I am pleased to see that. I will be even more pleased to see them when they are finished.

“I think this gives an indication that things are happening in Bolton town centre and that can only be a good thing for the town and the people who live here.”

The Market Place develop-ment may be joined by a rival town-centre cinema complex after council planning chiefs approved plans in June put forward by Crompton Place shopping centre to build an 11-screen premises in the former TK MAXX store.

The plans would also see four new restaurants opened — at the expense of 10 retail units in the centre.