BARS and restaurants in Inverclyde are set to be allocated outside space as part of innovative plans being drawn up to narrow roads and extend pavements for when lockdown easing gathers further momentum.

Council officials are working in partnership with other local authorities as well as Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government and the walking and cycling charity Sustrans to increase alfresco eating and drinking.

The district's governing policy and resources executive sub-committee has been told that a recent Telegraph article on the prospect of utilising Clyde Square and Cathcart Square in Greenock had 'generated a lot of interest' from businesses.

Now initiatives are being developed to ensure that as many licensed premises as possible will be allowed to open up to customers for outdoor service during the summer.

Roads and transportation boss Gail Macfarlane confirmed: "We are looking at opportunity to re-designate areas of the carriageways, looking at whether there are areas that can be used as zones that are suitable to be able to safely have areas for outdoor dining.

"If we have a strategic overview of where these zones can be it will allow us to meet with the businesses in those areas and discuss a formalised approach."

The move comes after SNP group leader Chris McEleny suggested last month that parts of Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow could be temporarily pedestrianised to help kickstart businesses.

Licensing Board chairman Ronnie Ahlfeld has also welcomed the idea.

Mr Ahlfeld said: "Certainly I think it is something that we should look closely at.

"It's a chance I think to inflate the local economy to keep people in employment and to give some incentives to the premises owners."

Councillor McEleny said: "When this was highlighted in the Greenock Telegraph I know that it certainly generated a lot of interest from a lot of businesses who think it would certainly make a difference."

Scotland has entered Phase 2 of lockdown easing which is hoped will soon lead to the reopening of pubs and restaurants in some form, although the two-metre social distancing rule remains in effect.

In a question to regeneration and resources director Scott Allan, Cllr McEleny said: "Would you consider any approach from a restaurant or cafe that is on a road, that you could maybe barrier the road to narrow the road and in doing so widen the pavement?"

Mr Allan replied: "We have been looking at how we could extend the area by looking at parts of the public road and this is something that is being encouraged."