OXFORD'S premier live music venue, The Zodiac, is being transformed into a club "for the future" as part of a £2m expansion project.

The Academy Music Group (AMG), which last November bought the Cowley Road club for an undisclosed fee, has ended months of speculation by revealing its vision for the building.

The plans will see the club partially demolished and rebuilt with three separate venues under the same roof. The total capacity will increase from 750 to 1,150 - much of that catered for by a new main venue, capable of holding 900 people, to be renamed The Carling Academy Oxford. The Zodiac's name will live on, though - giving its name to a smaller 436-person upstairs venue, which will host new bands.

The third element will be a stand-alone bar and club, to be called Bar Academy, which will hold 280 people. Due to fire regulations, the three venues will not operate at maximum capacity at the same time.

Work will start in mid-May, and see the club closed for four months. Its re-opening in September will be celebrated with a party. AMG remains tight-lipped over who could appear, but refuses to rule out the city's greatest musical export, Radiohead - members of which formerly had a financial interest in the club.

The plans mean the extension of the club into a courtyard and pool bar behind the venue, and a former tile shop next door - which has vacated the premises. The chief executive of AMG, John Northcote, travelled to Oxford to reveal the plans.

He said: "Come May 18, the Zodiac will cease to exist. But in the middle of September, it will open with three new rooms. This is a good thing for Oxford."

The club's general manager, Carl Bathgate, said the larger venue would allow Oxford to attract bands which were currently by-passing the city. He said: "Bigger acts will visit Oxford more frequently."

Talks are continuing with staff. Although 60 people work at the Zodiac, there are only five full-time employees. After re-opening, the workforce will more than double.

Carling is only a sponsor and does not own AMG group.