Motor manufacturer Honda has confirmed it has sold its Swindon manufacturing site to Panattoni, Europe's largest industrial and logistics property developer, which intends to invest £700 million into the site.
The Japanese automotive giant said it was committed to "leaving the site in a responsible way, with a sustainable legacy for Swindon".
Jason Smith, director at Honda of the UK Manufacturing, said: “We are pleased to have identified a capable new owner of the site.
"From our engagement with Panattoni and initial discussions with Swindon Borough Council, we are confident that the new owner can bring the development forward in a commercially timely fashion and generate exciting prospects for Swindon and the wider community.”
Following the end of production on 30 July 2021, Honda will immediately commence the decommissioning of the Swindon site.
The site is anticipated to be legally handed over in Spring 2022, once the necessary consents have been obtained, and Panattoni will start regeneration and redevelopment shortly thereafter.
James Watson, development director for Panattoni, said: “Panattoni is committing to invest over £700 million into the site to attract new employers and provide for existing businesses looking to expand in Swindon.
"We will be working very closely with Honda and Swindon Borough Council, along with the community and its representatives to regenerate the site.”
Matthew Byrom, managing director of Panattoni in the UK, said: “The acquisition of the 370-acre Honda facility demonstrates our capabilities to work at scale.
"The re-development of this strategic employment site will deliver thousands of new opportunities in roles which underpin the operation of the local and regional economy.”
Susie Kemp, chief executive of Swindon Borough Council, said: “The new opportunities outlined by Panattoni will be a major step in Swindon’s rejuvenation following Honda’s exit.
"Their investment offers a significant boost to the local economy and we are excited by the prospect of this redevelopment creating thousands of jobs for Swindon and the surrounding area.
"We already have a strong working relationship with Panattoni following their recent development of the adjacent site, Symmetry Park, and look forward to working with them over the next year.
"We understand that Honda’s key aim was to identify a responsible new owner and I believe today’s announcement demonstrates that.”
As part of its continued efforts to leave a positive legacy in the local community, Honda will assess opportunities for small sections at the edge of the site that are not required for Panattoni’s development to be utilised by the neighbouring communities.
Panattoni will now commence all necessary planning work with Swindon Borough Council, with support from Honda.
Honda acquired the site in 1985. In 2019 it announced a restructuring of its global automobile manufacturing operations, which included the cessation of production at the UK plant in July 2021, at the end of the current model cycle of the Civic hatchback.
The news was welcomed locally. North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: "This is absolutely fantastic news for Swindon, with £700m investment secured.
"The Honda Taskforce and crucially Swindon Borough Council demonstrated we are pro-development – a key to securing our future employment opportunities."
Paddy Bradley, CEO of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The sale of the site is an exciting step forward for securing economic opportunities for the local economy.
"Confirmation of the future of the site provides a major boost to the local economy and will provide certainty, especially in the current uncertain times the whole country faces.
"This decision is great news for jobs and the Local Enterprise Partnership very much welcomes Panattoni's commitment to the growth of the local economy."
Les Durrant, president of Swindon Chamber of Commerce, said: "The Honda site is one of the most strategically important investment opportunities in the South of England.
"Swindon Chamber of Commerce welcomes the announcement today which provides an important and timely boost for the Swindon community and economy, and sets out the first steps for creating new job and supply chain opportunities for local businesses.
"The news that Panattoni is committing to invest over £700 million into the 370-acre Honda site is excellent news and a strong commitment to and endorsement of Swindon.
"We welcome the opportunity to continue our work as a Chamber in supporting all the partners in delivering and building out the site with Panattoni.”
And Phil Smith, managing director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Initiative at Business West, said:
“This brings us to the next stage in the formal end of an era for Honda’s involvement in Swindon but opens up a new chapter for the town.
"The past two years since the first announcement of closure in February 2019 have been a period of considerable uncertainty for both workers and Swindon itself, so this is good news and puts an end to much speculation and concern that the site would lie empty.
“We are very glad that the site will be retained for employment use and it appears that the number of jobs created will be equal or greater than currently employed by Honda.
"It is also encouraging that the turnaround into its new use will be quick. It will be a boost for economic recovery in the region over the next two years.
“There will be some disappointment in the region that an advanced manufacturer was not secured to take over the site, but the market for logistics is extremely buoyant and wider uncertainty in many global manufacturing sectors may have tempered wider interest.
"Ultimately, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.
"This announcement clearly reflects a broader need for larger strategic employment sites to provide a range of investment opportunities beyond the logistics sector.
"Our region currently has a dearth of these available and needs to do more in ensuring sites are available within our local planning system to cope with both strong demands for logistics operators alongside more traditional manufacturing employers if we are to fully capitalise on global investment interest.
“Despite this good news, focus needs to remain to ensure new job opportunities are available for Honda associates and the impacted parts of Honda's supply chain.
"This announcement means this objective will become much easier. Business West will continue to work to ensure employment remains high in Swindon and surrounding areas."