A BOURNEMOUTH rowing club established in 1865 is set to lose its prime seafront site to allow for the expansion of the neighbouring Oceanarium.

Westover Rowing Club has been based on the seafront for 145 years, paying an annual rent of just £32.50 for most of that time.

But this deal is set to end on 31 August, 2011, if Bournemouth council goes ahead with a plan to terminate its lease.

The Real Live Leisure Company, which owns the Oceanarium, has already expressed an interest in opening a new marine animal attraction and hospitality facility and so will be given first refusal on the site.

If this deal goes ahead, the Real Live Leisure Company will start development in October 2011, with the new extension opening at Easter 2012.

But if terms cannot be reached by the end of the year, Bournemouth council will instead market the site to other all-weather attraction operators.

The rowing club, which has around 100 members, is currently searching for a permanent new home and is aiming to build a new boathouse in time for the 2012 rowing season.

It will be entitled to £40,000 compensation for quitting the premises, which will kickstart its fundraising campaign.

Westover Rowing Club president Carl McCrudden said they would be “disappointed” if cabinet members decide to terminate their lease but were confident of finding a suitable site to move to.

He added: “It is important to remember that the club has been entirely self-funding for the last century and a half and that as a community amateur sports club our resources are limited.

“Nevertheless, with the full support of British Rowing, the council and a fundraising campaign we hope we will be able to create a new rowing club and sea sports facility that will be the pride of Bournemouth.” Cllr Rod Cooper, cabinet member for economy, leisure and tourism, said: “In view of our aspirations to improve the seafront and the prevailing financial climate, I believe it is the right time to question the current use of this important site.

“It presents us with a unique opportunity to extend an existing, successful all-weather family attraction.”

James Eels, director of the Oceanarium, said: “This site presents us with the only realistic opportunity to expand the Oceanarium and we are considering a number of different options that could deliver a significant new marine exhibit and a multi-use hospitality space.

“This would increase the attraction’s diversity and educational offering in a fun and inspiring way as well as accommodating the increasing demand for a function facility.”

Cabinet members will make a decision on the future of the site on Wednesday.