PRESENTER Richard Cartridge is the latest big name set to leave troubled BBC Radio Solent, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Richard, pictured, will part company with the station, which is suffering plummeting listening figures, early next year, ending a 30-year association.

His departure follows those of broadcaster Peter White and jazz show presenter Chris Walker - both with the station since it started in 1970 - Top Soil anchorwoman Pippa Greenwood and veteran sailing correspondent Dennis Skillicorn, revealed in Monday's Daily Echo.

It was unclear today whether his exit is part of the cull of staff by station bosses as they bid to reverse the fall in listeners.

Figures from RAJAR, which monitors radio audience levels, show Solent's share has dropped from 12.6 per cent to 9.5 per cent and it is being caught by commercial rivals such as Wave FM. Yesterday an internal memo by managing editor Mia Costello leaked to the Daily Echo sparked controversy when it urged presenters not to put callers on air who sound over 65.

The leaked memo brought an angry response from Age Concern who branded the approach as "ageist".

Richard, 57, who lives just outside Southampton, lost long-time co-presenter Sylv Willoughby when she left a year ago. Tragedy touched his life when his son, James, was found dead outside his home in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in June 2005.

James was the middle child of three from Richard's first marriage to Carol. The presenter also has two children from his second marriage to former Meridian TV presenter Jane Wyatt. The couple later split up.

Today Mr Cartridge was unavailable for comment.

A BBC spokesman said: "Radio Solent is going through many changes and I can confirm that Richard is leaving us in early 2007 after an amazing career, on and off, since the 1970s. He had planned to tell his listeners himself so it is disappointing for him to hear that the news has been leaked out early."

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