A POPULAR Inverclyde tourist attraction has lost just under half its visitors because of building works.

Bosses at the Fire Museum say scaffolding outside the heritage centre in Dalrymple Street has been putting people off.

John Cairns, secretary of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Trust, which runs the museum, says this — combined with the associated road closure — has taken a toll.

Mr Cairns said: “Footfall has dropped by 40 per cent since the scaffolding went up on the building and the road closed.

“It’s made access difficult.

“We were up to 5,000 visitors throughout the year and we were gaining momentum but this has dropped to 3,000.”

Work was being carried out to upgrade the council building, which includes the former Victorian Fire Station where exhibits are housed.

Mr Cairns said: “We couldn’t do anything about it.

“The council were improving their building and we are part of that building.

“It has held us back a bit but there is no-one to blame.”

Now the work is complete the enthusiasts are looking to the future with a series of publicity events to boost the museum’s profile.

Mr Cairns said: “We were featured on the Antiques Roadshow last month and we have a short film showing what we do at the museum.

“We also had an Austin Gipsy vintage engine on display in the Oak Mall.

This was to raise awareness about the museum and to publicise a charity concert hosted by the SFRH Trust, which runs at the Beacon on March 16.

Another current project is collaborating with the Oak Mall to encourage tourists to walk though the centre and out of the entrance near to the fire museum.

Mr Cairns said: “We want to engage cruise ship passengers to walk into the Oak Mall at the West Blackhall Street entrance right through to the other end and to the museum.

“When big cruise ships come in we are thinking of displaying a fire engine at the entrance to the shopping centre as a visual focus.”

He is also hoping that better signage will encourage more holiday makers to take a look inside.

A council spokesman said: “The scaffolding was in place for a year to allow essential restorative work to the Municipal Buildings which is home to the fire museum.

“The museum is a great asset for Inverclyde and we will continue to promote and support the important role it plays in celebrating the area’s rich and diverse heritage.”