PLANS to turn a former Greenock DIY shop into a non-religious community welfare centre have been approved - despite concerns over the safety of the building.

Inverclyde Council's planning department has given the green light for Prime Hardware, also known as Discount World, on Laird Street to be converted into a 'non-residential institution' for use as a 'social meeting and teaching place with English classes being offered'.

The application was approved by officials despite two public objections and one 'neutral' comment about the proposals.

Concerns were raised about the condition of the property with one complainer claiming it was 'scheduled for demolition in the early sixties' while another questioned what it will be used for, describing the planning application as 'vague'.

There were also fears about a lack of rear emergency fire exit and the impact on pedestrians and traffic.

But planners said there were no objections from the council's environmental department and dismissed the concerns, adding that the 'structural integrity and feasible re-use' of the property is 'not relevant' to the planning application and would be dealt with in a building warrant application.

An official said: "The proposed use will have a positive effect in bringing this vacant unit back into use, adding to the vitality of this central area and enabling the adaptability of the building."

The application also includes plans for a small kitchen and utility space, toilet provision and classroom space.

According to the document, there will be four employees and a maximum capacity for 50 people.

Council officials say there are no internal or external alterations proposed, although work inside the building does not require planning consent.

Officers ruled that the application is within local policy guidelines and that it 'merits approval'.

The Tele contacted the representative of the applicant for a response.