A CONTROVERSIAL and widely-opposed development of flats in Port Glasgow has been cast into doubt after one of the firms behind the proposal called in liquidators.

Glasgow-based housebuilding company Merchant Homes has gone bust and 22 employees have been made redundant, with several unfinished projects in the pipeline.

The business had been granted permission in February 2023, in partnership with Advance Construction, for 24 new homes in a four-storey block of flats on a former burial ground at Bay Street next to Gourock Ropeworks.

Revised plans, for 18 two-bed flats, eight one-bed flats, and 21 parking spaces, attracted more than a dozen online objections.

Local critics - including residents of the category-A listed Ropeworks building on Bay Street, along with representatives of Port Glasgow West Community Council - expressed serious concerns about the plans.

Objectors warned that the development would put the history of the area at risk and claimed construction on such a sensitive site was 'not right for the residents or for the people buried in there'.

They also argued that the iconic Ropeworks building would end up 'blocked off by a monstrosity'. A community protest was organised against the plans in late-2022.

Greenock Telegraph: An artist's impression of the proposed developmentAn artist's impression of the proposed development (Image: Bruach Architects)

Merchant Homes, which also developed sites next to Inverkip Cemetery and in Gourock, specialised in private and social housing, but said a number of factors led to the decision to cease trading.

In papers set to go before Inverclyde Council's environment and regeneration committee at its upcoming meeting later this month, an update states that work is expected to begin at Bay Street in the early months of 2024, with an anticipated completion in 2025/26.

Liquidators, Opus Restructuring & Insolvency, were brought in last month.

They cited increasing costs, inflationary pressures, unforeseen delays to new contracts and a general downturn in buyer confidence across the building sector following the rise in interest rates as reasons for the company going out of business.

The firm had contracts worth around £20 million across Scotland on its books, including an incomplete development in Linwood and permission to build flats on land next to Rangers FC's Ibrox Stadium.

Mark Harper and Steven John Parker, from Opus, have been appointed joint liquidators.

Mr Harper said: “For some time, the construction industry has been experiencing extreme challenges.

“The rate of failure in the sector is at its highest in over a decade. Rising material costs, inflation, planning delays, and skills shortages have all contributed to the distress.”

Advance Construction has been approached for comment.