Most of the staff of a Cumbrian haulage firm are being laid off, after its transport manager was banned from the industry.

Seventeen drivers, workshop fitters and office staff at Eric Nicholson Transport, in Cockermouth, have been informed they are being made redundant.

Mr Nicholson, who has been in the haulage business for 40 years, said: "We had absolutely no choice but to make pretty much all the staff redundant.

"It was soul-destroying. Some of these guys have worked for us coming up 40 years.

"We have made 17 staff redundant but are hoping to employ everyone up until May 10 when the licence goes."

Mr Nicholson tried to get around emissions controls by fitting cheat devices on up to 16 vehicles. Following a public inquiry, his firm will lose its licence in May and will be disqualified from operating vehicles for five years.

He has appealed the decision.

"I wasn't expecting to lose my licence completely. I was taken aback by the decision," he said.

Mr Nicholson, who is an Allerdale and town councillor for Cockermouth and was on Cumbria County Council for 20 years, said he'd made the biggest mistake of his life in arranging for someone to fit the devices.

His son and daughter, Simon and Lesley Nicholson, have applied to set up a new company, Cumbria Coal Limited, to take over the firm's coal business.

Simon, who is also a town councillor, said: "My sister and I are setting up a new company, providing transport for the coal. We are the shareholders and directors.

"We are confident the coal will continue uninterrupted, operating as we always have done from Dearham."

Eric Nicholson's appeal will be considered by the Upper Tribunal in London.

It could decide to uphold or set aside the decision of the Traffic Commissioner, or may order a fresh hearing.