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Union leaders have been called to a meeting with motor giant Ford amid fears that the firm’s van factory in Hampshire is to close.

Union officials said it was a ‘very worrying time’ for the 500 employees at the site, which has been making Transit vans since 1972.

Around 2.2m Transits have been made in Swaythling, Southampton since 1972, although production slumped from 66,000 in 2008 to 28,000 last year after the plant moved to single shift operation.

Yesterday Ford unveiled plans to close its factory in Genk, Belgium, with the loss of 4,300 jobs and said details of its ‘transformation’ plan would be given today.

Stephen Odell, chairman and chief executive of Ford of Europe, said: ‘The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to return to profitable growth.’