Supporters of a women’s refuge say residents were ‘sad to leave’ and they were ‘sad to see them go’ as Dorset Council shuts the centre.

The Friends of Dorset Women’s Refuge have held numerous fundraising events for victims of domestic abuse who were living in Bridport, and they want to thank all those who helped, but the refuge has now shut and the residents moved to smaller houses.

Margie Savory, chairman of the Friends of Dorset Women’s Refuge, said: “Bridport has been enormously welcoming and supportive of the women’s refuge and its residents.

“You First, who manage the care of victims of domestic abuse for Dorset Council, have decided that the centre in the Bridport area is not suitable. They have closed it and are now using smaller houses in other areas of Dorset.

“At the last gathering of residents and the Friends of Dorset Women’s Refuge we had a very big thank you from the staff of You First. They particularly mentioned the warmth of the welcome in the town, which was greater than they had experienced in other towns.

“The friends want to pass these thanks onto the businesses and organisations that we approached for help, and who were universally generous. The Round Table, the Masons, the Lions, the Rotary, WIs and the churches all made special collections for us and responded to requests for funds to pay for mattresses and bed linen, china and kitchen utensils and pushchairs. The arts centre and Electric Palace gave tickets for children’s shows and the leisure centre offered free swims.

“Residents didn’t have the financial resources to care for themselves and so we were delighted when hairdressers Mango and Hair by David cut and styled their hair and Beauty and Beyond offered manicures. Fruits of the Earth kindly put a box in their shop so customers could give generous amounts of food and toiletries and many individuals gave personally and we are so grateful to them all.

“We are extremely thankful for this generosity, but we can no longer accept donations. Our remaining funds will be spent on victims of domestic abuse living in the county.

“The residents were sad to leave our town and we are sorry to see them go.”

Dorset Council announced that victims of domestic violence are to be offered a ‘greater choice of accommodation in Dorset in a bid to help them rebuild their lives’.

Rather than having a large shared building in west Dorset, Dorset Council will now provide a number of smaller houses across the country. This is due to current residents who ‘struggle to feel safe and settled in such a large building’ and will allow them ‘greater choice and control over where they settle’.

The council currently provides 19 units of accommodation and say the new approach is ‘more personalised, offering self-contained, private spaces for individuals, and often their children, to regain their independence’.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “We are proud of our record of providing support to people escaping domestic violence and abuse. This is another innovative development for Dorset.

“Many groups of people cannot use traditional refuge accommodation, perhaps due to the age of their children, their gender or because they have additional needs. This revised model allows us to meet the needs of all Dorset residents and gives people choices over where they get help.

“Enabling people to make community links and develop local networks of support in the areas they are likely to live in the longer term is a real benefit.”

A spokesman for You First said: "Due to the sensitivity of the work we carry out, the You Trust will not be making any comments."