THE multi-billion pound owners of an historic Greenock dry dock have told a group of volunteers to come up with a 'credible plan' to breathe new life into the site.

Peel Ports have challenged community activists from the Campaign to Save Inchgreen group to put forward proposals for the future development of the facility.

The wealthy, privately-owned firm insist they have a 'specific' plan for the dry dock - but are still open to suggestions for the site from anyone, including the grassroots organisation.

Peel say the Greenock facility is a 'key asset' and it is in the mix for lucrative Royal Navy aircraft carrier maintenance contracts along with its Merseyside shipbuilders Cammell Laird, which manages Inchgreen.

But former shipyard worker, Robert Buirds, who set up the dry dock campaign group in December 2017, is not convinced and was stunned when he and his fellow volunteers were challenged to come up with a regeneration plan.

The information came to light in a letter to Mr Buirds from Transport Scotland, following a recent meeting between transport secretary Michael Matheson and Peel chief executive Mark Whitworth.

Mr Buirds said: "It regurgitates the nonsense we've heard before from Mark Whitworth regarding aircraft carrier work and the many excuses used to destroy the cranes. "He says, 'Inchgreen is a strategically important asset to Peel Ports' but allowed it to deteriorate for 16 years.

"He then goes on to highlight the cost associated with 'maintaining it in its current fit-for-purpose state' - 'terrible state' would be more accurate. "We already know flooding of the pump room has destroyed the pumps and it's instrumentation among other major electrical and engineering issues. "We were so concerned about the state of the facilities that we offered a free survey by two engineering companies and both Cammell Laird and Peel Ports rejected the offer.

"I can guess why.

"The letter says they are 'willing to explore any fully costed, credible plan or project for the dry dock which you [the campaign] may wish to put forward'.

"One thing our campaign is not about is procuring work for Peel Ports.

"They have starved Inchgreen in favour of their investments in Cammell Laird and Merseyside and have continued with that business philosophy."

Nonetheless, the campaign chief says the group will put forward a proposal.

They have also welcomed an announcement from Peel that a pontoon for the new Greenock Ocean Terminal development will be built at the dry dock, which was reported in the Telegraph last week.

A Peel Ports spokesman said: "We have a specific plan for Inchgreen, and that hasn't changed. "However, we are prepared to explore any costed and credible use of the facility put forward by any other party, including Mr Buirds' organisation."