The latest meeting of the Honda Taskforce (30 September) saw attendees discuss a wide range of new programmes ahead of the car factory’s planned closure in July 2021.
The 152-hectare site was originally an airfield until the Japanese car manufacturer started developing the site in 1988 and has seen models being built in Swindon such as the Jazz, CR-V, Civic, Type-R and Accord.
The site itself holds great potential for future tenants being currently the largest key employment area in Swindon Borough. Set in a prime location with easy access to both rail and road networks, any future occupants of the site will benefit from the planned £450m ‘Birdlip Bypass’ along the A417 and the £17.5m upgrade currently being delivered to Junction 15 of the M4.
Currently less than 50% of the site is developed so, as a key employment area, there is great potential to increase use of the site. This along with its large size and associated links to the transport network makes it 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 in order to create the best offer for potential investors.
It is recognised that large key employment areas such as this have, in the past, faced issues when attempts have been made to repurpose them. Issues include uncertainty around the impact of its intensification on the local and strategic highway network.
To mitigate these issues the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership is pleased to announce the £170,000 funding of an initial study to minimise these risks and remove barriers to finding new tenants.
This study, which will be prepared in collaboration with Highways England, will identify how the highway network can be enhanced to enable this area to be more intensely developed to support up to 8,000 jobs, which is twice as many jobs t supported by Honda at its peak.
On top of this, £80,000 in funding will be made available for a further study into the potential energy requirement for the site, then looking at options for supply in terms of renewable energy both through the Grid connection and, excitingly, from the possibility of on-site generation of energy.
This work will not only unlock the Honda Site’s full potential as a prime employment area, but will also help de-risk and fast-track the formal planning application process for future occupiers of the site.
Paddy Bradley, SWLEP CEO, said of the project: “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.”
Robert Buckland MP said: “I would like to thank Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership for funding these studies, which have the potential to create up to 8,000 jobs here in Swindon.
“This funding from a government-backed Local Enterprise Partnership will help to ensure that the Honda site here in Swindon is an attractive proposition for potential buyers.“
Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “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 appropriately plans in place.”
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi:
“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.”