Plans to redevelop Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal have received a major boost after more than half of the £9.6 million needed was awarded by Arts Council England.

The funding agency has given the green light for a £4.6m award to gallery owners and operators Lakeland Arts.

The money has come from Arts Council England’s Large Capital programme, which is funded by the National Lottery.

Plans are already advancing for the project, with multi-award winning McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA) already in place to help transform the gallery and into a “stimulating” and “vibrant” place.

The redevelopment involves Abbot Hall Art Gallery, existing storage buildings facing Abbot Hall Park and the grounds in between those areas. It will see a new dedicated learning centre for schools and local communities, a new retail offer, more exhibition space and a community gallery.

Work is planned to get underway in the summer 2020 and be complete in time for the hall’s 60th birthday in 2022.

Lakeland Arts’ chief executive Rhian Harris said: “This fabulous funding news means our dream to redevelop Abbot Hall moves a step closer.

“The planned redevelopment will mean visitors can experience world-class art in redesigned exhibition galleries. It would also see improved accessibility and landscaping making Abbot Hall a welcoming and vibrant place that everyone can enjoy.

“We want the new Abbot Hall to be a cultural and community hub for engaging local people and bring culture to new audiences. The redevelopment will enable us to bring great art to Cumbria and also better display our own nationally significant collection of art.

“The redevelopment signifies a considerable investment for Kendal and south Cumbria.”

Arts Council England capital funding is awarded to organisations to help improve buildings and facilities that allow them to produce and present great work. Abbot Hall Art Gallery already has an impressive permanent collection of over 6,500 works from artists including George Romney, JMW Turner, John Ruskin, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney and Kurt Schwitters.

Arts Council England’s director for the North, Alison Clark said the organisation was “thrilled” to support the redevelopment.

“The renovation will provide much better opportunities for showing the outstanding collection at Abbot Hall and the improved accessibility will mean that more people in Kendal and south Cumbria will be able to enjoy the exhibitions and activities at the gallery as well as attracting more visitors to the town.”

Lakeland Arts has historically leased Abbot Hall from South Lakeland District Council and the authority has invested £100,000 in the redevelopment.

The push is now on to find the remaining £3.6m needed for work to get underway.

Ms Harris added: “We are also pursuing other funding streams and if anyone is interested in supporting this exciting development they should get in touch.

“We need to raise an additional £3.6m by summer 2020 and have an ambitious fundraising plan in place to do this.”