The future is bright for Swindon, even as the town’s Honda factory closes its doors after 35 years of car production.

That is the clear message from senior leaders at Swindon Borough Council and the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

While there is sadness about the ending of one chapter and the loss of thousands of high-skilled, well-paid jobs, there is optimism that with the site already bought, there are better times ahead.

Deputy leader of Swindon Borough Council Gary Sumner said: “It will be a very sad day when Honda closes because the company has been such a big part of Swindon’s history over the last three decades. Most people here will know someone who has worked at the factory during that time.

“Honda has been one of our top employers and an important part of our local economy which helped fill the void left by the closure of the town’s railway works.

"Since that time, it went from strength to strength, and it has equipped its workers with skills which will stand them in incredibly good stead for the next chapter of their careers – and lives.”

Even while the site is decommissioned over the next year its new owner, industrial developer Panattoni, is looking to expand the site, and has started the process of applying for permission to build new factories and warehouses to increase its usage.

Council leader David Renard said getting a mixture of uses on the site is the key to growing the town’s economy.

He said: "I’d like to see high value manufacturing, research and development and some office space there.

“It’s really important we have a diverse economy in Swindon and are not dependent on one large employer.

“Diversification is the key.”

And according to Coun Sumner, that investment by Panattoni, other growth areas and the high-skilled and famously productive workforce at Honda will be attractive to many employers.

The cabinet member for strategic infrastructure said: “Our experience of the last two years shows that Honda’s highly skilled workers are in high demand and will provide a major boost to our labour workforce. They will continue to be Honda’s lasting legacy long after the car maker has gone.

“We are fortunate in Swindon because more than a billion pounds is being invested in employment sites in the east of the town, which includes Panattoni’s recent purchase of the Honda site and the huge new Amazon premises at nearby Symmetry Park.

“We are also investing over £100m in our road network to make our borough an even more attractive place for companies to locate.

" Our town centre is set for a major transformation, while we have a brand-new Institute of Technology about to open, exciting higher education facilities opening at Brunel’s former Carriage Works and an innovation centre focusing on sustainable technologies at Wroughton Airfield, so the future is really bright.”

Paul Moorby, a member of the SWLEP, is the co-chairman of the National Honda Taskforce, set up in February 2019 to soften the blow of the company’s departure.

He said the car company had done a lot to improve the town’s prospects.

“Honda of the UK Manufacturing has been an exemplary presence in our town, a truly world class leader in technology, developing the skills and aspirations of our workforce for many decades," said Mr Moorby.

“Honda has been true to its word – indeed, observers are already saying the orderly shutdown, the partnership working, and the mitigations put in place should be of interest to economic managers around the world.

"Honda, farewell and thank you.”