COUNCIL chiefs hope to start work on a new £7.5m centre for people with learning disabilities and autism in Greenock as soon as possible.

The state-of-the-art daytime activity hub was recently approved as part of the council's 2020-21 capital budget and will replace the former McPherson Centre in Gourock, which has already closed, and the Fitzgerald Centre in Greenock.

It will be built on the site of the former Hector McNeil swimming baths on Brachelston Street.

Councillor Robert Moran, convener of the local authority's health & social care committee, said: “We are delivering on the promise we made to people with learning disability who use the centre and their families.

"It’s been our long term goal to provide people with learning disabilities with a centrally-located, daytime activity hub.

"Now that the money has been allocated for the project we can forge ahead and make this important, new facility a reality.

“Our intention is for the hub to be housed in a community building, which can also be used by the wider community.

"The ethos will be to provide a space where people with additional needs and the wider community can come together in a modern, open environment which has room for everyone.

“The hub will make sure that people with a learning disability get the support they need to achieve their ambitions to be as independent as possible and to be included in their community.”

Thomas Arthur, 24, who moved to Fitzgerald Centre from the McPherson Centre when it closed in 2018, is one of the people looking forward to using the new hub.

Thomas has a learning disability with complex health needs which means he needs full and constant support.

Mrs Arthur, Thomas’ mother, said: “I was devastated when the McPherson Centre closed and was worried that the new hub wouldn’t happen.

"Now, I am over the moon that this has been given the go ahead and money invested in it, it has exceeded my expectations and I’m just on a high.

"Hats off to everyone who made this happen.

"Thomas will continue to get the support he needs but will have access to much better facilities and therapies and will get outdoors.

"He loves watching traffic go by so it’s a great location.”

The building will also accommodate the Integrated Learning Disability Team of specialist learning disability health and social care staff, creating a new service which meets all the needs of people who have a learning disability along with day opportunities under one roof.

The new hub is intended to support people who have complex needs including autism, and to provide accessible therapeutic and personal care facilities.

It will have capacity for 50-plus service users and the ability to be used as a drop-in base for anyone who needs accessible personal care facilities, help with eating or specific therapies not accessible elsewhere.

The centre will have a café facility offering a service all day, which will be run as a social enterprise by service users or offer training to anyone who requires a supported employment service

There will also be flexible spaces to allow peer activities, therapies and an attractive large area that can be used by community groups and day/evening adult education.