A THIEF who took a joyride on a stolen piece of heavy machinery has caused £2,000 worth of damage.

A yob got into the Pelagia fish factory on Drumfrochar Road in Greenock at 10pm on Saturday and stole a Manitou Telehandler, a large forklift-like machine.

The brazen criminal then headed towards nearby Wellington Park BC and churned up grassland, damaged the club's fencing and demolished three lampposts - leaving live wires exposed at the side of the public footpath until late Monday afternoon.

Club president, Mark Kelly, was shocked to hear of the damage caused and says he thought the phone call 'was a wind-up' at first.

The 36-year-old told the Tele: "One of our bowlers lives near the club and called me to let me know what was happening.

"I actually didn't believe them it first, it sounds made up.

"They've churned up all the ground and knocked down lamp posts, with one of them having live wires hanging from it all weekend.

"This pathway is used quite a lot by local dog walkers, so I'm just so glad nobody was on the path when this person decided to drive up it."

The green and grounds of the club escaped undamaged, but Mark is concerned about large gaps in the hedging and fence that enclose it.

He said: "I'm so glad it didn't make it up to the actual bowling green as if that had been damaged we'd never have reopened, as the cost of repairs would be far too expensive.

"But the vehicle has knocked down concrete pillars and ripped through the fencing meaning the club grounds are now exposed.

"I just cannot understand why anyone would do this, especially after the year we've had.

"The members are devastated, especially Edward Adamson (pictured) who got a real shock when he first saw the damage."

It is believed that the joyrider abandoned the vehicle when they reached metal barriers at the top of the path and then escaped into the field behind the club.

The vehicle was undamaged and able to be returned to Pelagia, who had it on hire.

General manager of Pelagia, Andy Burt, said: "The vehicle taken was a Manitou Telehandler, it does not belong to us, and was on hire via a sub-contractor.

"The hire company have recovered the vehicle undamaged and it has been returned to site."

The live wires have now been covered in the interest of public safety, however Inverclyde Council will be faced with hefty repair work.

An council spokesperson said: "Unfortunately three lampposts and grassland were vandalised.

"One of the street lights is beyond repair and will need to be replaced.

"Two others were bent out of shape and will need fixed.

"It is estimated that the work will cost around £2,000.

"Checks are also being carried out on fencing in the area and on the damaged grassland, which may lead to additional repair work.

"It is bitterly disappointing that reckless and irresponsible behaviour has caused damage to public property and incurred additional expense to the public purse at a time when resources are under strain due to the coronavirus pandemic."

Police investigations are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Greenock police on 101.