A SCHEME aimed at breathing new life into empty retail units across Wirral has seen more than 20 brought back into business.

More than £100,000 from the Empty Shops Fund has been invested by the council in the past year to breathe new life into town centres across the borough.

Among the applications awarded funding is the Rathbone Studio, a new pottery studio and workshop in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, that used to be home to the famous Della Robbia pottery.

Janet Holmes, founder of the Rathbone Studio, said: “This opportunity has come about as a result of the financial support of the Empty Shop Fund from Wirral Council.

“I am very happy to be part of what’s becoming a cultural, artistic hub in Argyle Street, with the Masque Theatre Company and the Wilfred Owen Story as my neighbours.

“After a lifetime spent in clay – literally - to discover that my premises once formed part of the iconic Della Robbia empire is such an exciting challenge; to make my own mark on the ceramic history of Birkenhead.”

Another successful application was lodged by St. Mary’s Church in Eastham, in conjunction with Eastham Community Forum, as they sought to bring an empty unit in Clifton Avenue back into use as a community hub.

Rev. Beth Glover from St. Mary’s Church said: “The idea and need for the shop was identified by residents themselves. Our local Councillors told me about the Empty Shop Fund so I applied for one of the empty shops in Clifton Avenue and was awarded the funding.

“Wirral Partnership Homes are now renovating the shop using that money which will also provide a new kitchen with facilities for a community bread making facility, an after school computer club, a place for residents to meet, and share news and for the community to have their own base and for a Food Bank. We will also be running a money management course from there.”

Councillor Pat Hackett, Wirral’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning Strategy said: “There were some fantastic bids and it is clear that these small grants to help them with set up and refurbishment costs are helping to make a difference in local shopping areas and among residents.

“It will also re-energise previously vacant premises to help restore a sense of place, identity, ownership and civic pride back into these areas.”