THE local SNP group have backed bold plans for a new £100m college campus in Greenock.

Fears have long been expressed over the future of the current West College Scotland Finnart Street building and further education bosses last year unveiled ambitious designs for a replacement at East India Harbour.

Question marks were subsequently raised about the proposal, with sceptical independent elected members arguing that college management should go back to the drawing board.

They argue that the blueprint will downsize the college and want the ageing Finnart Street building modernised instead.

But SNP councillors are rowing in behind the bid for a new-build on the waterfront.

Chris Curley, SNP environment and regeneration spokesperson, said: "From a strategic point of view, West College Scotland’s identified site at the harbours in Greenock would integrate well with the previous developments in this area including the Waterfront Leisure Complex and the Beacon Arts Centre.

"It would also link to the existing and proposed commercial and industrial developments at Cartsburn, James Watt Dock, Inchgreen and along the waterfront and the A8.

"The site could also provide a significant contribution to the redevelopment of Greenock town centre.

"Crucially, it does not restrict the ambitions for the college, as it is a larger site than the existing Finnart Street campus and Waterfront Campus put together."

The SNP group believe a purpose-built new facility could provide a wide range of programmes, including trades and industrial courses.

Cllr Elizabeth Robertson, local SNP education spokesperson, said: “The development of the college facilities in Inverclyde should not merely be a replication of what currently exists but should be purposely designed to provide the flexibility to meet our needs now, as well as the needs that will emerge in the future.

"We will continue to engage with the college and make the case for educational provision that meets the requirements of the local community, develops the skills needed to support the local economy and attracts people from elsewhere to study and work in our wonderful part of the world.”

College bosses will need to clear a series of hurdles to fulfil their development vision, including securing the necessary funding and winning planning permission - but they now have backing inside the Municipal Buildings for their blueprint.

Chris McEleny, SNP local authority group leader, added: “The SNP group is fully behind working with West College Scotland to provide facilities that can meet the aspirations of Inverclyde, and beyond, for at least the next 50 years.

"We should not lose sight of the fact that we need a thriving college in Inverclyde.”