PARKING problems and congestion fears were dismissed by councillors as they gave the green light for a major £15m expansion plan for Ocean Terminal.

It will include a visitor centre, restaurant and art gallery inspired by the work of late Gourock artist George Wylie.

The investment will enable more cruise ships to dock in Greenock.

An estimated 150,000 passengers could pass through the terminal, which will be located at the current waterfront and cinema car park on Custom House Way.

The loss of parking spaces prompted debate but elected members agreed with officials who said this should nor block the development.

Depute council leader Jim Clocherty says the terminal would be a 'challenge and an opportunity' for Greenock town centre.

He said: "I think as councillors we have to look into the future.

"This can only be a positive and I wholeheartedly support this application."

Councillor Jim McEleny added: "Build it and they will come.

"Let's see the car parking spaces full and overflowing."

Councillor Ciano Rebecchi said he was 'pleased that something has been done about promoting tourism' but added that he would like to see traffic management plans for coaches picking up passengers and dropping them off.

Gail McFarlane, head of service for roads and transportation, said: "We expect an increase in the number of coaches and also other people in the locality.

"There will be staff on site who will be able to manage the coaches...who will be there to help with the movement of visitors on and off coaches."

Councillor Natasha Murphy asked about the loss of parking spaces for patrons of the Waterfront Leisure Centre and cinema.

Mrs McFarlane replied by saying that a parking survey. carried out on a Tuesday and Saturday, showed 65 per cent occupancy at the cinema and 82 per cent at the leisure complex.

She also confirmed that there had been no objections from the leisure centre or cinema.

Councillor Murphy asked: "Will members of the public will still be able to drive along Custom House Way and have access to the leisure centre and retail park?"

The head of transportation replied: "There will be a period of one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon on cruise days when the public will not be able to access the one-way system. "There will be flip-down signs to alert the public."