ELEVEN staff have lost their jobs in Bridport after the family-run Southgate car dealership company closed all its South West sites.

The Southgate group, which was set up in 1996, has seven sites in Dorset and Hampshire.

Workers on the Bridport site were told that they were being made redundant and just days later transporters were on site taking away cars.

Worker Kevin Mason, who worked at Southgate for more than three years, was on holiday and found out about losing his job via Facebook.

Mr Mason said: “It is going to leave a big hole in Bridport for sure.

“I think it has been here since 1998. Maybe it was local people not using us so much, whether that was a contributing factor who knows? Or maybe it is just a sign of the times.

“I was on holiday and found out about it on Facebook.”

Mr Mason, who was back dropping of his company car, said it was very sad to see the premises empty.

He said: “We did sales and servicing here and were the main dealer garage facilities.

“It was a hive of activity most days.

“Still it would make a good McDonald’s site there is no doubt about that. We always said it would be a brilliant site for that.

“Most of the workers were local and there were about 11 of us. It was run on the bare minimum it wasn’t like we were overstaffed.”

Bridport manager David Thompson refused to comment and neither parent company Southgate or its advisers have yet made an official comment.

The business closed down last Monday. Mayor Dave Rickard said: “Losing any employment is always bad news. It is a very prominent site and visually it might be a bad advert.

“A couple of years ago there was a short time when we had no empty shops and it was at a time when other places were starting to go through these things.

“Then a few started closing and that wasn’t quite so good but now two empty shops are coming on line very shortly so there is some good news. We all hope that this isn’t the start of the next stage of recession. Hopefully it’s a one off.”

Bridport Chamber of Trade president Mike Harvey said: “It is obviously disastrous for the staff but we hope the site can be re-occupied soon because it is very prominent and it is not a great advert for Bridport. It is probably due to intense competition from the local suppliers of vehicles and providers of vehicle serving, which is of a high quality. There are some really good people around Bridport and the locals know that.

“Although all the sites have gone that is beside the point. They would have kept the Bridport one going if it had been profitable.

“They don’t just pull these things if they are making money.”

Before Southgate the Bridport Motor Company traded from the East Road roundabout site.