PORTLAND Coastguard Station – which currently handles search and rescue operations for Dorset – will close under new government cuts announced this morning.

The news – which was leaked to the press at the weekend – will come as a devastating blow to the station’s 27 staff who are now facing redundancy.

The sweeping changes, announced by Shipping Minister Mike Penning in parliament this morning, will cut the number of coastguard stations around the country from 18 to just eight – with only three open around the clock.

Solent Coastguard is set to expand and will become an operational centre open 24 hours.

Mr Penning said such centres would be "maritime operations centres capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur.”

A 14-week consultation has been launched.