PSA Peugeot Citroën has sold its Ryton Peugeot 206 manufacturing site.

The company said contracts have been exchanged for the sale of the 140 acre (57 ha) Ryton site to Trenport Investments Limited.

A total of 11 bids were received for the purchase of the site, with short-listed bidders also presenting their proposals to Rugby Borough Council planners.

The proposals for this major purchase will include early use of the premises for warehousing and distribution, "providing significant employment opportunities", according to the two parties.

Neil Parsons, PSA Peugeot Citroën group property manager, said: "We are satisfied that the prospective owners of the Ryton site plan to make commercial use of the property contributing to the local economy and the employment market."

London-based Trenport Investments Limited, which owns more than 2,000 acres of land in Kent, has a long track record of successful commercial developments. It is part of Ellerman Investments Limited, a major property group with interests throughout the UK.

Managing director Tony Parson said: "We intend to progress as rapidly as possible, with the planning authorities and agencies in the immediate Coventry and Rugby areas and within the Midlands, to develop plans for the comprehensive redevelopment of this regionally strategic site. Our immediate aim is to develop opportunities for several hundred jobs and to achieve diverse business opportunities in the future that will bring more employment and wide-ranging economic benefits to the area. We expect to commence this process immediately upon completion of the purchase on 16 April."

PSA announced Ryton's closure on 18 April last year, with the loss of 2,300 jobs.

PSA said at the time that the decision - with closure scheduled for July 2007 - followed a detailed study undertaken internally during the first quarter of 2006 of the plant's industrial cost effectiveness. The study 'clearly confirmed the weaknesses for the Ryton plant - high production and logistical costs - which mean that the group was unable to justify the investment needed for the production of future vehicles', PSA said then.

Unions staged a number of high-profile protests against the closure but the rate at which employees found new work elsewhere led PSA to bring forward the closure to last January.

Ryton was built by the Rootes Group around the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 as a 'shadow' aircraft engines factory, supplementing the automaker's then main plant in Coventry, which was later bombed substantially. After the war, it produced a variety of Rootes passenger cars under such brands as Hillman, Singer and Sunbeam. Ownership passed into Chrysler UK hands for a time in the 1960s before PSA acquired the factory. Peugeot production began with the 309 in the mid-'80s and the plant also built the 405 and 306.

It concentrated on the 206 from 2001, building almost all right-hand drive models and a substantial number of LHDs. It has also built most 206 SW wagons and specialist versions of the 206 hatchback such as the glass roof Roland Garros.

The plant assembled components supplied mostly from Europe and included a body-in-white unit, a paint shop and a body subassembly line.