INVERCLYDE'S MP has hit out at iconic buildings in local town centres being 'left to rot' following the fire at the former Arts Guild.

The building on Campbell Street, now owned by Peel Land and Property, was badly damaged in a blaze at the weekend and will now be demolished - three years after permission was granted to send in the bulldozers.

The Campbell Street building has been lying empty for eight years since the Beacon waterfront venue replaced it.

It became a target for vandalism and anti-social behaviour and Mr Cowan says it is time to act to prevent other prominent buildings going the same way.

Mr Cowan said: "It is really sad to see a building like the Arts Guild left to go to ruin like this.

"The Arts Guild holds many fond memories for many of us in the town.

"It was a part of our childhoods.

"The memories are so emotive, of pantos, theatre and dancing.

"It was a swimming pool before that and you just think there must be a value in trying to save buildings like these.

"They were built to last and to see them end up like this is sad.

"We have so many like it in Greenock of such historic importance."

The MP says he would like to see more buildings put to productive community use.

He said: "When you look round Greenock town centre there are buildings falling into disrepair on Nelson Street and then the old church in Jamaica Street.

"We need to look at ways to make use of our old buildings instead of them ending up destroyed by fire, demolished or just left there to rot.

"I think owners have a responsibility to find an alternative.

"There are so many examples of old churches being turned into something else, buildings to be used to benefit the community.

"Some here they are just being left to fall in to disrepair."

The Arts Guild is now due to be demolished as soon as possible, following the site being secured.

Police continue to investigate Sunday night's blaze, which they are treating as wilful.

Peel Land and Property say they are planning to put proposals for a housing development to the council in the next six months.