finance

Honda sells Swindon plant to property developer


Honda is selling its Swindon car plant to property developer Panattoni, handing a potential lifeline to the site’s 4,500 workers.

The Japanese group has been searching for a buyer for the former Spitfire plant, which it bought in 1985, since announcing plans two years ago to close the facility this summer.

Panattoni, Europe’s largest logistics property developer, pledged to invest £700m in the site, which produced Honda’s popular Civic hatchback, and create “thousands of new opportunities”.

Falling sales prompted Honda to earmark the Swindon facility for closure as part of a company-wide trimming of its operations in 2019.

Panattoni has not disclosed payment details or plans for the 370-acre site, which once produced several hundred thousand cars a year.

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said there was a “much clearer plan for the future of the site” because of the sale, which would create more jobs than currently as it switched to “mixed industrial and logistical” use.

He added that a “mixed-use” site offered more sustainable jobs for the area.

It had been feared the plant would be left empty after Honda’s discussions with several potential buyers failed to produce an offer.

Ford, which was searching for a buyer of its Bridgend engine factory, had also failed to find a user for its site.

Honda manufacturing director Jason Smith 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 UK boss Matthew Byrom said: “The redevelopment of this strategic employment site will deliver thousands of new opportunities in roles which underpin the operation of the local and regional economy.”

Phil Smith, who runs local business group Business West, said the sale offered a “new chapter” for the plant after two years of “considerable uncertainty for both workers and Swindon itself”.

He added: “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.”

Steve Preddy, of the Unite union, said: “It is of the utmost importance that all stakeholders, including local and national government, Honda and Panattoni, ensure that manufacturers are given every incentive to make the site their home.

“Swindon and the whole of the South West have a proud manufacturing legacy, especially in industries such as automotive and aerospace.”



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