OAK Mall bosses defended their car parks policy — and called on Inverclyde Council to work along with them to revitalise Greenock town centre.

The Tele revealed last week how the local authority is still trying to buy back the King Street parking area from the owners of the shopping centre.

Depute council leader Jim Clocherty says the process has become ‘frustrating’ after six years with no progress.

The car park — behind the Mall and the former Central Library — was previously well used but is now largely empty on a daily basis.

Its unpopularity is blamed on a controversial charge of £1 per hour for a maximum of four hours.

Mall bosses have defended the policy but say they have ordered a pricing review.

Centre manager Claire Jefcoate said: “The King Street and Hunter Place car parks are owned by the Oak Mall but operated under lease to a private operator.

“This was introduced by the previous Irish Mall owner in 2010 and is still within lease term.

“The Mall has requested the operator to review the present tariff, however the four-hour restriction will remain.

“Without parking controls, previously both these car parks were used by local residents and local staff, leaving little available parking for genuine shoppers and town centre users.

“The Mall frequently had complaints regarding the lack of available space for retail customers.

“King Street car park was packed on a daily basis before parking controls were introduced, but not for the advantage of the town centre economy.”

The leases on both parking areas run until 2020 and Mall bosses refuse to say whether they are willing to sell the King Street site to the council.

But they insist they are keen to work with the local authority and partner organisations to help boost the town centre, which has been struggling for a number of years.

Ms Jefcoate said: “The Greenock town centre economy has been affected by many different economic reasons at a time when most town centres are experiencing a downturn in use, and previous retail planning decisions have not assisted Greenock town centre.

“A cohesive action plan by all parties involved is the only way forward to improve parking facilities and town centre use.”

Earlier this year, councillors approved a £1.9 million funding package to help boost economic activity in Greenock town centre.

Mall bosses say improved signage, particularly to advertise the King Street car park, would benefit shoppers and visitors.