HIS silky smooth delivery made him a housewives favourite and one of the most popular voices on Hampshire’s airwaves.

Now his loyal fanbase are demanding he is put back on air at BBC Radio Solent to save the station from a slide in listeners.

A growing petition is urging station bosses to bring back chocolate voiced presenter Richard Cartridge before its too late.

Mr Cartridge was a victim of a cull of presenters by former station boss Mia Costello which coincided with a dramatic slump in listener figures.

John Christopher, one of those behind the petition which now has over 150 signatures, said: “When Richard left the station management said they didn’t want to hear older presenters on air.

“Ever since then they’ve continued to lose listeners. Local radio is very important but If they don’t do something to rescue the station we could lose it.”

The petition has been backed by New Forest councillor Les Puttock, PR chief Gill Gould of Carswell Gould and West End councillor Tony Noyce who says he switched off listening to Radio Solent after Mr Cartridge’s departure. He called him the “best presenter Radio Solent has had.”

Mr Cartridge, who has described Radio Solent as his “spiritual home,” briefly returned to the airwaves for a week-long stint over Christmas.

He said he was aware of the petition and would jump at the chance to return full-time.

“It would be wonderful to be able to consider going back to Solent full time. We’re on friendly terms but there doesn’t seem to be a position there for me at the moment,” he said.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We are delighted to be able to call Richard a friend of BBC Solent, and we know listeners loved his shows during last Christmas.

“We remain in touch with Richard but there are no immediate plans for him to take on a more permanent role."

Latest quarterly figures show the station slumped to its lowest-ever share of the listening audience despite Nick Girdler returning to Solent after a three-year absence, Katie Martin replacing Charlie Crocker on the weekday early afternoon slot, and former Meridian newsreader Debbie Thrower being drafted in for a temporary role. New figures are due out next week.

To sign the Cartridge petition visit: www.petitiononline. com/rd3d1267/petition.html.