THE vision for a £4 million revamp of York Theatre Royal - one of the biggest projects in its history - has been handed in to council planners.

The theatre is seeking about £2.8 million in Arts Council funding for a sweeping refurbishment including major changes to its auditorium and the colonnade on St Leonard's Place being enclosed and glazed to double the size of the entrance and cafe areas.

It has passed the first stage of the funding process, allowing detailed plans to be submitted to City of York Council.

A decision on an application for the full grant is expected in June, with the venue intended to close for several months next year so work can be done between pantomime seasons. Performances would be staged elsewhere during this time, with the aim of relaunching the theatre in December 2015.

The main stage would be replaced and the rake of the stalls altered, with new seats in the stalls, dress circle and gallery.

Two new entrances and a new cafe and reception area would be created, with the existing cafe and bar refurbished and digital displays installed, alongside a "rolling exhibition" of the theatre's history. Lift access to the dress circle and first-floor bar would be available for the first time, and access and energy-efficiency would be improved.

In the planning application, architects De Matos Ryan said: "York Theatre Royal is already highly creative and commercial, but the building they operate in is now holding them back.

"The project's role is to unlock even more of the theatre's potential, opening its doors to a wider community and encouraging a higher spend per person, so they can build the next phase of their future."

The firm said the new entrance would "create an attractive and animated face to the street which invites people in", while the auditorium scheme would provide a better connection between audiences and performers. It said the current stage meant theatre companies often came to York at the end of their tours because its "limitations" forced them to adapt their scenery.

"This project will attract more audiences and visitors to the theatre, increasing its trading income and improving ticket income," said the architects, adding it would also secure "an artistic and financial future" for York Citizens Theatre Trust.