A PLANNED multi-million pound redevelopment of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

National Museums Liverpool £2.8m improvements will see 500-square metres of gallery space transformed and returned to its original architectural design. This equates to a revamp of more than a quarter of the venue.

Other works would include making the Gallery’s internationally renowned collections more accessible to visitors and a viewing terrace at the south end of the building.

The refurbishment would see more than 1,700 items of fine and decorative redisplayed and new educational resources would also be developed for local schools and the community.

HLF has given the project a first round pass which includes a development grant of £149,400.

It means National Museums Liverpool has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.

Sandra Penketh, director of Art Galleries National Museums Liverpool, said: "We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has accepted our first round application.

"This project will transform the gallery and breathe new life into the collections.

"It will also mean improved accessibility for our visitors and greater educational resources for local schools and the community.

"We’ll be working hard to secure funding from elsewhere as we progress with this project."

The scheme would be entirely funded through major grants, donations and corporate sponsorship.

A £350k gift from a Charitable Trust has already been gratefully received along with £200k from Garfield Weston Foundation.

Sara Hilton, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: "Bringing the Lady Lever Art Gallery's collections into the 21st century and making them relevant to today’s audience while respecting the buildings original architectural design is a fantastic use of Heritage Lottery Fund money.

“This project aims to not only provide improved access and exhibition space for the world-class collections but it will also, through providing such a varied and interactive programme of community activities and events, enable thousands more people to enjoy what the Gallery has to offer.”

The Gallery was opened in 1922 by William Hesketh Lever to house the best of his personal art collection.

Built by Lever for his workers, the gallery is today considered to hold one of the best fine and decorative arts collections in Europe. It has the best collection of Wedgwood jasperware anywhere in the world and its collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings is internationally renowned.

Alison McGovern, Wirral South MP and Shadow International Development Minister, said: “I have been going to the Lady Lever for many years and it is great to discover that this bid is progressing well.

It is exciting news about one of Wirral South’s prized jewels set in the historic and beautiful village of Port Sunlight.”