RESTAURANT owners say they can now move on with their expansion plans and create more than 20 new jobs in the town.

Business partners Billy Bateman and Thomas McKendry, who own The Exchange, have been given the green light to extend the premises after an appeal paid off.

The pair had been turned down by planning chiefs on the grounds of road safety but this decision was overturned by councillors at a meeting of the local review body.

Mr McKendry said: "We feel we can move on and see how far it can go and create more jobs."

While Mr Bateman said: "It was a fair decision from Inverclyde Council."

The pair under their Reos Ltd firm had bought the former Dockers Club next door to the restaurant and wanted to extend into the car park but the proposal was rejected by planning chiefs in January.

It stated: "The loss of the yard to the side of the building would lead to extra car parking and unauthorised servicing on adjacent streets to the detriment of traffic safety."

Architect Marco Rebecchi, who represented the applicants, argued that the application was rejected without notice and made an appeal to the review body.

Mr Rebecchi said the Dockers car park was for staff use only and was gated and locked most times and servicing would no longer be via the car park.

He argued that 90 per cent of commercial premises in Inverclyde do not have off-street facilities for servicing, listing premises in West Blackhall Street as an example.

He added: "The extension to our premises would create an additional 20-plus jobs in the area where additional employment is needed."

Councillor Drew McKenzie said he believed permission should be granted.

He said: "The development proposals put forward were unable to satisfy planning conditions mainly due to on-street loading requirements.

"The reality of the situation is that both The Exchange and the Dockers have been serviced this way for many years and the architect in support of the application has furnished us with a list of establishments locally that work under similar conditions and that is worth noting.

"This committee so very often is asked to make decisions where planners are not able to tick all the boxes.

"It is also my view that we should always try to assist local businesses if at all possible.

"This is a good local business providing valuable jobs and I cannot see any reason why we should not offer them our full support.

"I would move that we support the applicant by granting approval subject to the conditions listed."

Ward Councillor Jim Clocherty said: "I echo Drew's sentiments and I second it."

Councillor Jim Crowther added: "I am also happy to support this application. If we refuses this we are treading on dangerous waters as we could refuse any business in the town centre."

The application was passed unanimously by the committee with conditions attached, included examples of facing materials being submitted along with details of bin stores and refuse collection arrangements.