A prime development site in west London, which once housed a world-class Olympic ice rink, has been bought by an unidentified Far East business consortium.

Richard Meacock, a Richmond gallery owner and entrepreneur who has led a campaign to restore the use of the rink to the borough, hopes the sale will end five years of speculation and pave the way for its return. As yet, however, there is no word from the new owners on what they plan to do with the land.

Mr Meacock came out of retirement in California to head the fight and has succeeded in putting the issue high on the council's political agenda.

Planning consent for 325,000 sq ft of houses and flats is in force and it is believed the group is eager to begin some development work as soon as possible.

A spokeswoman for SPP. LET International, the British-based property investment and assurance company, confirmed it had sold the plot to the buyers but said the price of the freehold and even the name of the group are still being kept secret.

Mr Meacock said the rink was once one of the borough's main attractions and internationally renowned as a practice ground for some of the world's best skaters. Torvill and Dean trained there, as did the entire Japanese Olympic team.

'This could be the best news for five years if they are going to rebuild the rink,' he said.

Richmond council said it hoped the sale would mean the start of building on the site. However, council leader David Williams doubted whether the rink would return.

'My understanding is that they intend to continue with residential development plans, so I don't think Richard Meacock has any real basis for believing that.'