UP to 300 jobs are facing the axe at Melksham’s largest employer, in a move which has shocked the town but left some workers relieved that the entire factory is not closing.

Bosses at Cooper Tire & Rubber Company Europe want to cut the jobs from a 732-strong workforce over the next 10 months.

Workers were handed letters on Wednesday saying that redundancies would take place at the 30-acre town centre firm.

General manager Jaap van Wessum said it was an older, smaller facility that did not offer economies of scale.

Bosses are now consulting with the trade union Unite over the redundancies.

The company wants to scrap light vehicle tyre production in Melksham. It will instead focus on tyres for motorcycles and motorsport racing.

Tyre worker Paul Pearce said: “I’m a little bit stunned but at the end of the day it’s not closing, so there’s still a future for quite a bit of people.”

Fellow worker Andy Bainton added: “It’s not going to kill Melksham, but it will have a very bad effect.”

Mr van Wessum said: “It is essential for Cooper to be globally competitive in the tyre industry.

“Unfortunately, the Melksham site... is the highest cost facility in the global Cooper network.”

Union leaders said they will seek company justification for the job cuts. Unite regional officer Tony Hulbert said: “We’ll do everything we can to support the members and fight for them.”

Melksham Town Council and Wiltshire Council have both pledged to support workers to find new jobs, setting up a task force to do so.

l Full report: Pages 4 & 5