A LEADING Isle of Wight shipbuilder has welcomed news the local authority could take control of Venture Quays.

MP Bob Seely said last week the Isle of Wight Council, working with local shipbuilders, should take charge of the East Cowes site after the developer behind multimillion regeneration plans pulled out of the project.

Urging the government to back the plans, he said landowner Homes England should hand over the site for free to safeguard the Isle of Wight's shipbuilding industry.

"We need to do all we can to ensure the site is not sold to the private sector in order to protect its availability for marine and maritime industries for future generations," said Mr Seely.

The chief executive of Wight Shipyard, one of the firms based at Venture Quays, has backed the idea.

Peter Morton, who previously offered to buy the site himself, said: "I support any move to secure the site for current, and future, marine employment.

"I don’t need to own the site. I believe it’s in the best interest of future generations for the council to be in control of what goes on there.

"We want to concentrate on building the best aluminium craft in the world, not being a property company, so a long term, stable partnership with the council is our preferred choice.

"Shipbuilding is difficult at the best of times. We want to remain competitive.

"We would welcome an arrangement where Island taxpayers get a reasonable return on their investment, but where we can employ more Island people who, in turn, can contribute to the Islands prosperity."

Mr Morton said the council and Mr Seely had shown 'great support.'

"I’m sure between us we can work something out so we get the stability we need and hopefully expand the facilities on the Island," he said.

"I am convinced that as Southampton and Portsmouth give their waterside facilities to yet more property developers, the better placed the Island will be to get that business.

"For example, the nearest dry dock that Red Funnel and Wightlink can use for their bigger ferries is in Falmouth, and all the tugs based in Southampton have to go to Holland for refit.

"Why not the Isle of Wight?"

UPDATE 16:01: The Isle of Wight Council said it was well placed to take charge of the Venture Quays site and 'optimistic a positive outcome can be achieved.'

A spokesperson said: "The Isle of Wight Council is involved in ongoing discussions with Homes England regarding the Venture Quays site as we recognise the significance of the site for East Cowes and the wider Island economy.

"The council is well placed to hold this site for future generations in support of the marine and maritime industries, as a part of our ongoing regeneration programme, and if a suitable arrangement can be reached we are ready to do so."

"We welcome the support of Bob Seely in liaising with the government, and we are optimistic that a positive outcome can be achieved.”