The Government has been accused of ‘dither and delay’ following claims a viable buyer has been lined up for Appledore shipyard for four months.

The GMB Union has today (Friday, January 31) criticised the UK Government for ongoing delays in the potential re-opening of the yard.

GMB said it and its sister trade unions have been involved in ongoing negotiations, led by the South West Business Council, to re-open the yard and secure a viable future.

But Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox said all parties had been aware of the need to move as quickly as posisble and there had been 'no unjustifiable delay' and said Government support had been approved in principle.

But Matt Roberts, GMB organiser, said: "A buyer with a viable proposition has been lined up for over four months now, but there seems to be dither and delay from the Government, causing more uncertainty for our members.

"We understand the need for due diligence to be undertaken, but our members are ready to get back to work and the buyer themselves are getting very frustrated.

"We have noticed increasing frustration from the buyer with how long the bureaucracy is taking, and if they were to pull out, then the Government would need to own that disaster and put something else in place rapidly.

"The Government cannot wait for a major group to come into the picture with a bottomless pit of funds. It's not going to happen. We have a viable proposition on the table now that can work, so let's get this over the line before it's too late."

Jake McLean, Appledore Shipbuilder and GMB union rep, added: "Myself and the other reps have worked around the clock to keep the workforce engaged and ready to go back to building ships here in North Devon.

"This area needs this vital industry back operating to give hope to youngsters that there is a future for them in Torridge.

"Everything is in place and ready, we just need the Government and Devon County Council to complete the jigsaw."

At the end of September, Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox said he was 'cautiously optimistic' the yard would reopen following a high level meeting at 10 Downing Street.

Previous operator Babcock International Group exited the yard more than 10 months ago.

Mr Cox told the Gazette: "I have been working intensively to support the potential new operator of the yard for many months to secure a major package of Government support to enable Appledore to re-open and to help it secure a pipeline of work.

"There have been some issues with which the operator has been assisted to resolve and the support has now been approved 'in principle' by Ministers.

"Naturally, this is contingent on the Local Enterprise Partnership and Devon County Council being satisfied that the business case presented to them is credible and can withstand the due diligence process which would apply to any significant investment of public funds."