A BOAT club with an Olympic heritage is set to undergo a £1m transformation.

Oxford Brookes University Boat Club has won planning permission to extend its boathouse on the River Thames near Wallingford.

The university is seeking to raise £1m to fund the scheme, which will double the size of its training base off Reading Road, Cholsey.

Brookes is one of the UK’s five elite feeder squads for the UK Olympic team and can claim to have the strongest undergraduate rowing squad in the UK, having already produced four Olympic gold medallists.

A spokesman for the university said year-on-year success under director of coaching Richard Spratley meant more room was needed to store world-class boats and build land-based training facilities.

The university is aiming to build the extension by Christmas this year to give its rowers as much use of the new facilities as possible before the London Olympics in 2012. It is hoping to reach the £1m target through a combination of sponsorship, grants and support from donors.

Double Olympic champion Steve Williams, formerly a Brookes rower, said: “Brookes has already gone a long way to establish itself. It is a national training development centre and it has been recognised as such.

“This is going to be the next step. We need to get more boats and we need more space.”

Expanding the boathouse will bring a number of facilities under one roof, including a gym housing rowing machines, as well as warm-up and cool-down areas. The new building will also feature larger changing rooms.

Oxford Brookes rowers train for up to 25 hours a week and the squad has 50 elite athletes. They divide their schedule between river-based training and a land-based rowing suite at the university’s Centre for Sport in Headington.

* Earlier this month Wallingford Rowing Club launched its own appeal to build a new weights room and gym in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The 280-strong club, which sent three members to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, needs to replace a rusting shed in the Cattle Market car park which has been used as a weights room since the 1970s.

It has submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council for a two-storey, red-brick building to house the gym and weights training equipment.