THE owner of a car showroom in Witney has said it is the right commercial decision to shut up shop after 50 years in the High Street.

Martin Kernahan, of Kernahan of Witney, said the showroom was now too expensive to operate, and would close on Sunday, July 31.

The company’s body shop in Oxford Hill will also close, but a service department in Station Lane will remain open.

Mr Kernahan said a number of employees will be made redundant, but it is not known how many. He said: “I have spent 30 years in the business personally, and lots of people have spent a long time here, so there is more than a tinge of sadness for everybody. But it is the right commercial decision.

“The economics of modern retailing mean that high street showrooms have become very expensive to operate, which is why it is very rare to find a car dealership in the middle of town these days.

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a suitable alternative location, despite having made considerable effort to do so, and so we have chosen to close our High Street premises.”

The company has sold its High Street showroom. Mr Kernahan declined to say how much the company received.

Planning permission has been given for the showroom to be knocked down and replaced with three retail units, seven houses, and two flats.

Mr Kernahan said: “This plan really only started coming together three months ago.

“Over the years, a number of approaches have been made for the High Street site. It has never been right for us, but now it is.”

The work would not create a High Street entrance into the Marriotts Walk shopping centre, Mr Kernahan explained.

He said: “There will not be a route through to Marriotts Walk.

“The development has been agreed.”

Kernahan of Witney’s car body shop, in Oxford Hill, will be sold and could be redeveloped for houses.

Mr Kernahan added: “We are retaining more than half the staff, but a number of people will be made redundant.”

The business was formed in 1958 by Mr Kernahan’s father, Owen Kernahan. The first showroom opened in Witney in 1965.

Kernahan of Witney has written to customers to inform them of the closure.