THE Isle of Wight Council said it was committed to protecting marine manufacturing after the cabinet last night (Thursday) agreed to continue negotiations to purchase Venture Quays at East Cowes.

Members voted unanimously in favour of continuing to secure the sites ­— for the right price.

Collectively known as Venture Quays, the sites are the Columbine yard, the Victoria Barracks building, the Albany warehouse, and a Maresfield Road site currently used for car parking.

They are owned by Homes England.

Cllr Wayne Whittle, cabinet member for regeneration and business development, said: "The reason we are doing this is, basically, if you know the history of Venture Quays, it was purchased many years ago and didn't amount to anything.

"There was a threat hanging over the shipbuilding jobs there and that's something we intend to preserve by purchase if it's at the right price."

As reported, MP Bob Seely urged Homes England to sell Venture Quays to the Isle of Wight Council after plans to transform the site into a luxury waterfront development, with a 400-berth marina, plush townhouses, a hotel, bars and manicured public gardens, collapsed.

Cllr Whittle stressed the importance of safeguarding local marine jobs and regenerating East Cowes.

Members agreed cabinet, and council directors, could use delegated powers to approve the purchase, subject to a deal with Homes England, so the sites could be acquired without delay.

Cllr Dave Stewart, leader of the council, said: "I think it's a very positive approach we're taking and I think it would be really good for this Island if we could achieve this."

The purchase would be funded by the council's regeneration fund, approved by the council at the budget setting meeting in February.

Cllr Stuart Hutchison, cabinet member for resources, said: "This, I think, will be a superb investment.

"It gives us control of a very significant strategic parcels of land, it gives us the ability to support marine engineering industries.

"I would echo Cllr Whittle ­— providing we could get it at the right price, it would be a good investment."

The council has said acquiring the sites would enable it to maintain marine and associated industries at Columbine, securing employment opportunities for East Cowes and the Island.

It has also suggested the possibility of redeveloping the Victoria Barracks site for leisure and public realm use, and the Albany and Maresfield Road sites for housing.

After the meeting, Cllr Whittle said in a statement: "I hope businesses and the community will recognise we want to acquire these sites for the long-term benefit of East Cowes and the Isle of Wight, and that they will be encouraged to invest in the area on the back of the certainty we can offer.

"It will also give us an opportunity to work with the local community and complete the regeneration of the area for the good of all."