Honda site sold to major property developer with promise to create thousands of jobs

March 26, 2021

Honda’s giant Swindon car plant, where production ends this summer, has been sold to an industrial property developer in a move that could create thousands of jobs.

The new owner Panattoni, Europe’s largest developer of industrial and logistics facilities, said it will invest £700m into the sprawling 370-acre site on the outskirts of the town at South Marston. 

Production of Honda’s Civic model – the last to be made at the plant – will cease in July.

The plant, which has been producing cars and engines for 30 years and in its heyday employed more than 4,000 people, will then be decommissioned and handed over to Panattoni next spring. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

Japanese car giant Honda announced the shock closure and the loss of all 3,500 jobs in February 2019, citing a global restructuring. Production at what is Honda's only European car manufacturing site, is being move to Japan. 

Honda director of UK manufacturing Jason Smith today 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.”

Panattoni builds and operates largescale distribution bases for major retailers such as TK Maxx, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, and Marks and Spencer.

Last October it forward-sold a 2.3m sq ft warehouse at the nearby Symmetry Park to Legal & General Investment Managers for £200m in what was said to be the UK’s largest-ever warehouse deal. The building, which is still under construction, will be used by Amazon, according to reports.

Panattoni UK managing director Matthew Byrom 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.”

Business West, the organisation behind the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative business group, welcomed the end of uncertainty over the site.

Business West Managing Director Phil Smith 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 the closure 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.”

He said that while there was some disappointment in the region that an advanced manufacturer had not been secured to take over the site, the market for logistics was 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,” he added.

"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 workers and the impacted parts of Honda’s supply chain. This announcement means this objective will become much easier.”

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