Maintaining the Honda site as a 'brilliant' industrial site and marketing it to other companies even while the car company is still there could be crucial to Swindon's economy says expert James Lockhart.

Mr Lockhart is a partner in commercial estate agents Whitmarsh Lockhart, and he told members of Swindon Borough Council's growing the economy overview and scrutiny committee that the South Marston site is one of the very best in the south of the country, and shouldn't be used for housing, even though Honda, as landowner is entitled to do as it pleases with the land.

He said: "It's a brilliant site, there's room to expand, the buildings are in good shape because Honda looks after them and it's basically right on the motorway junction.

"There will be a lot of companies who would be looking for a site like that. It's important that it remains available for industrial use and is not built on for housing."

Mr Lockhart said when Vickers, the previous owners of the site had marketed it for another use before they vacated it, and it had been bought by Honda. He added: "Honda own the site and it's entirely their decision, but I'd really hope they'd allow that again."

A spokesman for Honda said: "Now that the closure is confirmed, Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd will continue to work closely with local and national government, including Swindon Borough Council, regarding potential options for the future usage and ownership of the site."

The borough council's cabinet member for economy and place, Oliver Donachie listened to Mr Lockhart's briefing. He said afterwards: "I hope he feel reassured by the recent recommendation of planning to keep the site fully industrial. That was a formal legal recommendation and I fully support it."

Earlier this year the member for strategic planning told the cabinet that the former airfield just off the A419 to the east of the town would be zoned in the authority's local plan as being suitable for industrial use and not housing.

That doesn't prevent Honda from selling the land to a housing developer, but it could mean that it is harder to get planning permission for a large housing development.

Mr Lockhart observed that foreign companies seem to last about 30 to 35 years on sites in the borough. He said: "Honda will have been here for 37 years, Motorola was in Swindon for about 30 years. I'm not sure why but they seem to stay for about that length of time.

"The council needs to make sure there's a constant throughput of companies coming to replace those who are leaving, and I don't think that's happened."