PLANS to close an award-winning employer which has existed for generations have been described as “very sad” for Dorset.

As revealed in the Daily Echo, a consultation is under way over shutting Westwind Air Bearings in Holton Heath.

The company – owned by the US multinational Novanta – has not said how many jobs would go, but a source put the number at more than 120.

Westwind has been in the area since the 1950s. It won the Queen’s Award for Innovation five years ago for its work designing and developing high speed drilling spindles, which are used in manufacturing printed circuit boards.

Award-winning manufacturer to close after generations in Poole

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This is very sad news given the importance and prominence of Westwind Air Bearings as a very well-known Dorset business, a leading player in the manufacturing sector.”

Mid-Dorset and North Poole MP Michael Tomlinson said: “I am very sorry to hear about the planned closure of the Westwind Air Bearings site at a Holton Heath. My thoughts are with all the staff at such an unsettling time.

“I have been contacted by concerned employees and whilst this is a commercial decision, I want to do all that I can to add my support to those affected by these changes.

“I have requested a meeting with the chief executive to raise these issues and ensure that appropriate support will be made available to all who work there.

"Poole and Dorset remains an excellent place to base a business and I will continue to encourage local employers and entrepreneurs to see the advantage of being based here, and to seize opportunities as they arise, for example in relation to future foreign trade deals.”

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It is understood that the Poole site is to close by the third quarter of 2021, with production to be done at its Chinese counterpart.

A statement from Novanta on the closure plan said: “The Westwind business located in Poole, UK is part of Novanta, a trusted technology partner to medical and advanced industrial equipment manufacturers.

“Due to various business conditions, the company has informed employees at the site that it will commence a consultation period regarding the proposed closure of the Poole site.

“There will be no further statements to the media during the consultation period.”

Westwind was owned by Cobham from 1995-2003 before being bought by the Massachusetts-based GSI Lumonics, now Novanta.

The site at Holton Heath Trading Park is responsible for development and initial production, while larger volumes are made by an operation employing around 130 people in China.