AN exciting revamp of Worcester's Commandery has passed another hurdle after securing planning permission.

Worcester City Council's planning committee has voted through a package of improvements to the Grade I listed building.

The decision means bosses can plough ahead with their ongoing £500,000-plus investment, which is aimed at making the site a firm magnet for US tourists.

As the Worcester News first revealed last year the venue, at Sidbury, is receiving a big cash injection in an attempt to make it a genuine British rival to the National Civil War centre in Newark.

Some aspects of the work, including the relocation of a set of gates and careful refurbishment to the fabric of the building, required formal approval from the city's planning committee.

A council report on it called the work "responsible stewardship of this important Grade I listed building", and praised the wider overhaul as "very detailed".

The committee voted it through unanimously within a matter of minutes, giving it a fitting endorsement.

Alan Coleman, a senior planning officer, speaking at the meeting said: "There's internal work to do inside the building and branding work to do, to make it a much more user-friendly, interactive experience.

"But for the reasons set out in the report we are recommending this for approval."

The revamp includes a series of linked displays telling the story of Worcester's part in the English civil wars and how the city shaped world democracy.

A big lit projection display in the Great Hall introducing the significance of The Commandery, plus the story of the visit of US Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in rooms overlooking Fort Royal Park is also included.

A 'civil war study centre' featuring a library, research and volunteer facilities, a new courtyard entrance, more merchandise in the shop and a bigger reception area are also planned.

The huge investment includes a £96,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with the aim of boosting yearly visitor numbers by 20 per cent on top of the current 19-20,000 average.

The work is expected to be finished by May, and the site is still open in the meantime.

Proposals for two further phases of work are also being considered, but they are likely to need commercial backing at a later date.

It would include a new cafe, a separate entrance to turn it into a venue for corporate hire, exhibition space and an interpretation plan focusing on Medieval and Tudor Worcester.