REDUNDANCIES were today announced at the Lulworth Estate by devastated bosses who have revealed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has caused income to fall by 90%.

A total of 24 people are being made redundant from the estate, which has been closed throughout lockdown with 140 staff furloughed. Despite being able to reopen sections of the estate on July 4, large areas of it remain closed.

Owner of the estate, James Weld, said: "As a consequence of COVID-19 pandemic, the Lulworth Estate with deep regret announces 24 compulsory redundancies across all business activities.

"Having spent much of my working life at Lulworth with a primary objective of increasing rural employment as well as providing significant education and conservation services, it is especially difficult to have to take this action.

"Our staff are diligent, loyal and hard-working, most living locally and I am acutely aware that there may be fewer opportunities to find alternative employment in the near future."

The 12,000-acre estate has been owned and managed by the Weld family since 1641 and includes two of the region's most popular tourist destinations - Durdle Door and Lulworth Castle.

Mr Weld said: "Our income has fallen by up to 90% and since the beginning of April, our overall revenue has recovered to less than 50% of our usual earnings, inadequate for us to be able to cover our commitments and as a consequence we have needed to continue to consider how we might reduce our costs.

"Like many seasonal businesses, we depend on the summer months to build up reserves to carry us through the winter and to cover the cost of investment and those non-profit making services provided by the Lulworth Estate for many years.

We will not now have these reserves and to protect our business and as many jobs as possible we have needed to take action now to ensure that we are able to cover our costs during the winter months, giving those employees who have been made redundant time to find alternative employment; that is going to be difficult as more businesses shed workers."

Mr Weld said he was proud of the way his staff have handled the news. He said: "Those that have had to be made redundant have faced this with stoic pragmatism and recognition of the immediate difficulties that we all face. A reflection of how lucky we have been with the very high standard of our staff, making such a decision all the more difficult."

Mr Weld said he would be forced to make the redundancies once the Government's furlough scheme requires financial contributions from employers. He has assured workers they will not lose their jobs before September unless they are able to secure other work.

He added: "This is an extremely sad day and I sincerely hope that the 'new' normal will allow us to rebuild our business and our services to an even greater extent than we have done previously. Only time will tell."