THE production line at Honda will stop rolling for good in July 2021 – but the government's business secretary is bullish about the future of the South Marston site.

Andrea Leadsom was in town to chair a meeting of the national Honda Task Force for the first time, almost a year to the day since the Japanese car manufacturer announced it would be leaving Swindon.

The Conservative minister was joined by the company's management, trade unions, Swindon Borough Council and the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

She said: "There's been some very good work done by the LEP, along with the council, Honda management and the unions.

"Honda are now very clear about what happens in the future. The final departure date of July 2021 is set in stone – and they know exactly how many staff they will need and when, and what parts of the site will still be needed and what they need from their local supply chain.

"That gives clarity to everyone there – and it allows clarity on what else could be done on the site."

Mrs Leadsom said she was pleased to be told that road improvements in the area would still be going ahead.

She added: "It's important that there is continuing access to the site for upgrades to the WiFi and things like that to make it attractive to other companies."

The 380-acre former airfield is privately owned by the motor giant, although Swindon Borough Council has zoned it for industrial use and not housing. That doesn't prevent it being sold to a housing developer but could make it much harder to get planning permission.

Mrs Leadsom said: "I though everyone around the table was very positive and there is an expectation of a good outcome for Swindon."

A spokesman for Honda said: “Honda appreciates the collaborative approach and support provided by Swindon Borough Council and the partners in the local task force working groups.

We acknowledge the LEP report and continues to work with local and national government regarding the future of the Swindon site.

"Honda is currently undertaking a strategic review of the Swindon site, which includes looking into viable options for future ownership.”

Paddy Bradley, the director of the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: “It was a very positive meeting, with a lot of energy put into it by the secretary of state.

“What’s unusual is the fact that Honda have been very clear that the vast majority of its staff will still be employed making cars right up until July 2021, so there’s a lot of notice.

“The site is ultimately Honda’s and it’s in their interest to do something with it.”

Mr Bradley said he couldn’t divulge the detail of the report his team made as that was covered by a non-disclosure agreement but characterised it as looking to diversify the use of the site.

The council's cabinet member for economy and place Oliver Donachie said: "I was impressed by the minister – she had a real grasp of the nuance of the situation and it was good to have someone really getting on top of the detail and just just saying nice words."

Coun Donachie said the LEP report showed there was plenty of space at the site: "It's at 40 per cent capacity at the moment, and it would be good for a number of reasons to have it at 70 per cent.

"It's a massive site – all of Microsoft's UK operations in the UK would fit in just a third of the Honda plant.

"It's clear it could host two or three big companies plus several smaller ones, and could even take some development around it.

"That makes it an attractive offer to many companies and increases resilience, compared to having one huge business take it all."