PLANS to spend £1.2million building a larger gym and two new fitness studios at Bournemouth’s Littledown Centre have been unveiled.

The expansion is needed to ensure the sports centre can cater for its growing membership, which now stands at more than 7,000 people.

The centre has seen visits increase to more than 1.2million a year and provides over 160 weekly fitness classes.

The centre’s weekly learn to swim programme is also a major draw, with more than 1,800 participants. The works are being funded by centre operators BH Live and Bournemouth council and will also see more than £500,000 spent on new gym equipment.

A planning application submitted by BH Live will see the gym extended from 528 square metres to 969 square metres. The application also seeks to convert offices into a large multipurpose fitness studio which could be divided into activity spaces.

The gym extension would be at the rear of the building and building work would be phased to minimise disruption. If the plans are given the go ahead, work would start this summer and be finished by next spring. The centre plans to operate as normal throughout the building work.

Peter Gunn, BH Live chief executive, said: “This is a very significant investment project which will make a notable difference to the range of facilities and capacity at the Littledown Centre.

“Since BH Live began managing the centre in 2010, we have made considerable progress in getting more local people more active. As a result Bournemouth has some of the highest levels of participation in physical activity in the UK.”

Cllr John Beesley, leader of Bournemouth council, said: “The centre has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. With the increase in footfall, the ongoing investment ensures it remains fit for purpose and one of the top performing leisure centres in the UK for both Bournemouth and its community to be proud of.”