MAJOR plans have been unveiled to demolish a huge part of the Oak Mall shopping centre in Greenock.

Its owners have applied for permission to knock down the part of the centre that goes beneath the A78 main road, right back along to the existing entrance at Clyde Square.

It means the section housing the likes of Argos, M&Co, Poundland, RS McColl and Timpsons, along with the large and long-empty old JJB Sports unit, will vanish.

All displaced retailers would be offered replacement units in the remaining part of the much smaller shopping centre.

The demolition is required to enable the Scottish Government's transport agency to carry out essential repairs underneath the road.

Transport Scotland have served the Mall with a statutory notice which means 'major downtakings' are required and a substantial chunk of the covered centre will disappear, radically changing the look of the town centre.

A new entrance for the shopping centre will be created at Hunter Place, similar to the existing one off Dalrymple Street.

A design statement says: "A number of contributing factors have led to a high rate of vacancy within the Mall – general downturn in high street retail, increased competition from nearby Port Glasgow’s increased retail offer, and increased internet shopping.

"This has been exacerbated by continuous leaks from the main A78 trunk road which runs directly over the shopping centre.

"Transport Scotland require access to the underside of the road to enable a major repair programme to commence.

"As a result of the building owner being served with a statutory notice by Transport Scotland major downtakings are required."

If the owners get the go-ahead they say the empty land could be used for 'exciting new mixed use development' linking Clyde Square up with the smaller Mall.

The statement continues: "The vacant portion of the site would be cleared and hoarded off to provide a safe access for Transport Scotland to carry out their

refurbishment works.

"This future development site has potential for exciting new mixed use developments, linking Clyde Square to the new shopping centre entrance.

"Access to the underside of the A78 would, however require to be maintained for future road maintenance work.

"All existing retailers in the centre will be offered units in the reduced footprint."

Under the blueprint drawn up by designers, the cleared area at Clyde Square would be 'graded' in levels down towards the smaller shopping centre's new entrance 'using a combination of ramps, steps and gently sloping surfaces, giving a stronger, safer, friendlier 24/7 pedestrian link under the A78'.

Inverclyde Council's planning department are currently looking at the application and it is not yet known when a decision on it will be taken.

The Tele contacted the Oak Mall about the plans and was referred to M&M Asset Management, based in London, who did not return calls.