SWLEP funding aims to attract buyers to ‘nationally significant’ Honda site

By Ben Carey on 16 October, 2020

Swindon and Wiltshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) is making £250,000 available in a bid to make the Honda site in Swindon oven-ready for buyers.

The difficulties in repurposing large key employment areas can often lead to uncertainty and extra expense for developers. To make the site more attractive to buyers, SWLEP has announced £170,000 of funding for an initial highways study to help unlock the site and remove barriers to finding new tenants.

In addition, £80,000 in funding will be made available for a further study into the potential energy requirement for the site, looking at options for supply from renewable sources and from the possibility of on-site generation of energy.

The 152-hectare site was originally an airfield until the Japanese car manufacturer started developing it in 1988. With Honda planning to close the factory in July 2021, the site’s future hangs in the balance.

Despite it being the largest key employment area in Swindon Borough, currently less than 50 per cent of the site is developed. With its large size and associated links to the transport network it has the potential to be an employment area of national significance.  

The Swindon Borough Local Plan supports further future development of the site, but some key challenges still need to be overcome to create the best offer for potential investors.

Paddy Bradley, SWLEP CEO, said, “We are keen to support Honda in its aim to sell the site to enable a new future use as part of its Swindon legacy.  We can make a tangible contribution to that process by funding two studies, the output of which will be important information for potential buyers of the site.

“The potential intensification of employment and land use on the site means we need to ensure the risk to transport infrastructure and capacity is mitigated at the earliest opportunity.  We are also pleased to announce the study into renewable energy options for the site which are commercially viable and support our own ambitions for clean economic growth in line with our emerging Local Industrial Strategy.”

Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, added, “I am really pleased the  Swindon and Wiltshire LEP is putting forward the funding to carry out these two important pieces of work, which will be invaluable in ensuring the Honda site can fulfil its potential as a strategically important employment area within the Borough.

“Undertaking this work now will support our ambitions for attracting new companies to take Honda’s place and create thousands of new jobs for our local economy,

“As a council we are already spending tens of millions of pounds upgrading the road network around Honda, but it is crucial we understand how any future uses of the South Marston site may affect our existing and future highways infrastructure so we can put appropriate plans in place.”

It is hoped that with intensified development, the site could support up to 8,000 jobs, which is twice as many jobs as supported by Honda at its peak.

Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, “The potential creation of up to 8,000 jobs is at the heart of ambitious plans for this site, which is why it is great to see the government-backed Local Enterprise Partnership unveil funding for two valuable studies to help drive forward any redevelopment.

“These studies will provide crucial information around transport links and clean energy supply to the site, paving the way for the site’s expansion and helping uphold the area’s well-deserved reputation for advanced manufacturing.”

The highways study will be prepared in collaboration with Highways England and will identify how the highway network can be enhanced. This work will not only unlock the Honda Site’s full potential as a prime employment area but will also help eliminate risk and fast-track the formal planning application process for future occupiers of the site.