THE owner of Inverclyde's historic Inchgreen drydock has given campaigners a personal guarantee about the future of the site and plans to create many jobs there.

John Whittaker, executive chairman of Peel Group, has made written assurances that the Greenock facility is vital to the company's plans.

Mr Whittaker also reiterated that hundreds of jobs are on their way to Inverclyde if the firm is successful with bids for a variety of work, including Royal Navy aircraft carrier contracts.

The Peel supremo made the pledges in a letter to Port Glasgow man Robert Buirds, who is leading the Campaign to Save Inchgreen Dry Dock.

The former Inverclyde shipyard worker and trade union official, along with fellow local activists, has been calling on the owners to outline their plans for the site and for urgent investment to safeguard the UK's largest mainland drydock.

Mr Buirds took the fight straight to the top of the company and the Peel chief has now responded and assured residents that Inchgreen is a 'key asset' with a potential rebuild value of £200 million.

In his letter, Mr Whittaker said: "I can categorically assure you that this is not an idle claim, not a short-term attempt to deflect criticism.

"As chairman of the board, I can attest that the Peel Group is extremely serious about winning these contracts and is working hard on a number of levels to convince key stakeholders and other clients that Inchgreen offers a realistic and economical long-term solution to their dry dock requirements."

The company boss added that if their bids for work - in conjunction with Cammell Laird shipbuilders on Merseyside - are successful there will be a 'major recruitment programme in Inverclyde'.

He also pledged to communicate more with people about their plans for Inchgreen and the wider area.

Mr Whittaker said: "I hope that the contents of this letter provide a significant level of reassurance regarding the Peel Group's longstanding and active commitment to Scotland, and in particular gives a more accurate and up-to-date picture of our current and planned activities in Inverclyde.

"We have a long track record of successful regeneration and investment of which we are justifiably proud but as I explained earlier, we do not seek the headlines, preferring our demonstrable track record to do the talking.

"However, following your letter, we will also commit to undertake a programme of communication with a range of stakeholders in Clydeside and across Scotland, to ensure that the manifold benefits of our plans are more widely appreciated."

Mr Buirds thanked the Peel chief for his detailed response but has vowed to keep up the campaign until the company delivers on its promises for Inchgreen and Inverclyde.

He said: "We welcome the communications and hope we receive more positive news in the coming weeks.

"However, the campaign will continue until all our ambitions are met."