SAFETY concerns about the ageing A78 flyover section of road above the roof of Greenock's Oak Mall has led to the closure of a large section of the shopping centre.

A host of shops have been left unable to open as a result of the emergency measure while Transport Scotland engineers carry out an urgent 'detailed assessment'.

The Mall's owners say that a specialist contractor hired by them has flagged up issues of water seepage as well as repairs and maintenance required to the flyover.

Bargain Buys, Holland & Barrett, Optical Express, Unique and M&Co are currently unable to trade as a result of the situation.

Poundland can remain open but with access only from the Lower Clyde Square end of the shopping centre, and this will be the only way to get to Argos, the Fresh cafe, Vodafone and Shoe Zone when they reopen with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

In a statement, the Mall said: "Concerns were raised by a specialist bridge engineer employed by the centre owners to view problems surrounding water ingress, repairs and maintenance needed for the 1960s flyover.

"The centre owner — Lunar Greenock Sarl — has been investigating the condition of the bridge for some time and has passed on the engineer's concerns to Transport Scotland.

"They have also requested information from the transport authority such as the history of previous inspections and repairs.

"In the interim and, in the interests of safety, we need to close that area of Hamilton Way, to protect the public, tenants and our team."

Transport Scotland confirmed that its officials have been made aware of certain issues with the flyover.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government agency said: "The owners of the Oak Mall have raised concerns over the safety of the A78 bridge with Police Scotland and Inverclyde Council.

"We have undertaken regular visual inspections and have no information to suggest that the bridge is unsafe at this time.

"A further detailed assessment is due to be completed this week and then considered in full.

"We continue to work on a programme of off-peak maintenance and investigation works to ensure the bridge provides an essential link for business, tourism and road users in the Greenock area."

The Mall applied last November for planning permission to demolish the eastern end of the centre and build 123 new flats.

A previous proposal was rejected by Inverclyde Council due to a lack of certainty surrounding the future use of the prominent gap site that would be created as a result of the work.

The current application remains pending a decision from council planners.