Work on Whitlingham Boathouses, near Norwich, has started

Competitive sportsmen and women from novice to elite will soon be able to take advantage of the new �1m Whitlingham Boathouses at Trowse after work started yesterday.

The community boathouses are seen as a major step forward for recreational and competitive rowing and canoeing in Norfolk, and work on the first stage is due to be completed in early spring next year.

Max Heron, Whitlingham Boathouses project leader, said nearly �750,000 had been raised towards the project in the past year, including a grant of �200,000 from Sport England.

He added: 'The response to our appeal for funds from both local and national sources has been incredible. The community in Norfolk will have a facility that can cater for competitive sportsmen and women from novice to elite and international, as well as people who simply want to enjoy recreational sports. We will be increasing the numbers of people playing sport consider-ably over the next few years.'

Trevor Terrington, of builders John Youngs, said the current facilities were inadequate and the new boathouses would provide excellent ones for generations to come.

He added: 'It sets new standards and represents a new development that involves rowing and canoeing clubs, the UEA and two schools all under one roof.

'Sadly, these facilities do not come cheap and we still need a further �400,000 but are confident that this can be raised in time to have the second phase of the building completed during 2011.'

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Whitlingham Boathouses is a combined venture involving Norwich Rowing Club, Norwich Canoe Club, the University of East Anglia Boat Club, Norwich School Boat Club and Norwich High School Rowing Club.

The boathouses are in line with Sport England's target by 2012/13 of getting 1m more people doing sport, achieving a reduction of 25pc in the number of 16-18 year olds who drop out of sport and improving talent development; also, they will make a major contribution to the delivery of the five-hour sports offer for children and young people.

Kerry Duff, vice-chairman of Norwich Canoe Club, said it was a hugely exciting project.

Whitlingham Boathouses already have links with 25 schools through Active Norfolk's Indoor Rowing scheme, and the team there is building partnerships with other user groups across the community.

It has recently run rowing and canoeing activities for City Academy Norwich, the Clare School, Thorpe School, City College Norwich, the Swanton Morley-based Light Dragoons and Pilch Sports.

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