THE COMPANY behind plans to build a luxury super yacht manufacturing base in Southampton – creating 800 new jobs – has cut 15 people from its Hampshire workforce.

Despite the job losses Palmer Johnson’s boss insists its ambitious plans for the former VT site in Woolston would still go ahead with work due to begin later this year.

Fifteen workers at the international luxury yacht builder’s Hythe site were yesterday told their contracts would not be extended during a staff meeting.

All of the sacked workers were on three-month probationary contracts that have not been renewed because there is not enough work.

Some of them had left stable jobs, including posts at VT, to work for the international boatbuilder which was last year granted planning permission to build the luxury yacht making yard at Woolston. They included a 25-year-old engineer whose three-month probationary period was not renewed.

“I left a pretty good company to come here. I thought it was going to be a turning point in my career.

“It’s come as a big shock and the future looks pretty bleak.”

Lee Archer, director of Palmer Johnson’s UK group, who is based at Hythe Marine Park, said it was a sad day letting people go, but insisted the company would still forge ahead with its Woolston project.

Commenting on yesterday’s job losses he said: “We have to have the right number of people to do the job in hand. It is about securing the company’s future rather than burying our head in the sand.

“This is really not anything other than adjusting our numbers to make sure we have the right number of people, “It’s always sad when we have to do things like this.”

However Mr Archer said the company still intended to move to Woolston with foundation work due to begin later this year with the entire project taking up to a year to complete.

“That is still very much on the cards. We are continuing to monitor the situation but we are not going to sprint to the finish line.”

He said that once the company has its new production space set up in Woolston the company would advertise for the extra workers needed.

The company picked Southampton ahead of numerous other European cities after being wooed by Seeda, the regional development agency.

Mr Archer added that the company – which employs 100 people at the Hythe site – was not expecting to see any cancelled orders, but that equally the company did not want to overexpose itself in the current economic climate. Workers are currently building a £52m luxury yacht with work due to begin on another vessel later this year. Mr Archer said there needed to be “constant readjustment” to make sure there was the right number of people for the work.

“To keep people when the work is not there would be irresponsible,”

he said.