A £100,000 council grant has been agreed as part of an £8.5 million project to transform a South Cumbrian art gallery.

The commitment to Abbot Hall in Kendal by South Lakeland District Council will help unlock a landmark £5 million grant from Arts Council England.

The gallery, run by Lakeland Arts Trust, plans to relaunch in 2022 to celebrate its 60th anniversary with a host of new features, including better accessibility and a new cafe.

Trust chief executive Gordon Watson appeared before SLDC’s cabinet in Kendal yesterday in the pitch for funding.

Mr Watson described the facilities as inadequate and said the project would make Lakeland Arts more “sustainable, inclusive and outward-looking”.

He said it planned to develop a community user group and work more with festivals such as Lakes Alive, local artists, schools, colleges, and young people.

Mr Watson said: “Absolutely crucial is making Abbot Hall more welcoming so that people can come for free, as well as the offer that people pay for.

“If in five years’ time we are not working with our immediate community, then we haven’t succeeded.

“To us, it’s really important that we work with the Kendal community and other South Lakeland communities in much more inclusive ways.”

Councillor Chris Hogg, SLDC’s cabinet member for culture and leisure, said the plans were a unique opportunity and praised the gallery’s collection as incredible.

“We have this amazing site there that has been the same way for many years but the potential is absolutely huge.

"It will help us re-evaluate how it is used in terms of economics, social impact and environmental factors. A lot of the equipment is out of date and the access is a really obvious point,” said Coun Hogg.

Council leader Giles Archibald said Abbot Hall was of exceptional importance while Coun Graham Vincent (Lib Dem, Kendal West) called it the “finest provincial art gallery in the country”.