Six firms wound up over land banking scam



Six companies that scammed the public into investing in plots of agricultural land have been wound up by the High Court on public interest grounds, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The service said John and Jeanette Chandler were behind the businesses, running the operation from an address in Newton-le-Willows.

The companies took nearly £500,000 by falsely claiming to investors that they would obtain planning permission to increase the value of the land from £11,000 to as much as £120,000.

A connected company was closed down last year after taking almost £1m in exchange for plots of land near Wakefield.

The six companies involved in the latest investigation were: Green Crest Homes in Halifax; Brand Trader (UK) in Formby, Merseyside; Sutton Wells, Curved Ball and NSS Operations, all in Horwich, Lancashire; and JCB Marketing in Beverley, Yorkshire.

They traded from premises at 70 High Street, Newton-Le-Willows and collectively operated a landbanking scheme selling small plots of land at a site which they described to investors as the ‘Pennine View Project’ in Liversedge, West Yorkshire.

However, the investigation found that the companies had made no application for planning permission, even if they had done, it was extremely unlikely that permission would have been granted.

At least 43 plots were sold to investors for around £11,000 each. Green Crest Homes and Brand Trader (UK) received the sale proceeds, while Sutton Wells, Curved Ball and JCB Marketing acted as marketing companies for Green Crest Homes.

Previously the three marketing companies had performed a similar role for another landbanking company CLS & Partners, which took almost £1m from investors in exchange for plots of land at Ossett, Wakefield and was shut down in May 2012. NSS Operations provided administrative services to Green Crest Homes and CLS & Partners.

The Insolvency Service’s more recent investigation found that Curved Ball had received £1.8m from landbanking schemes run by CLS & Partners, as well as the Pennine View Project and several others. The directors later dissolved the company and there were no records to show where the money had gone.

Investigation supervisor with the Insolvency Service, Colin Cronin, said: “These companies persuaded members of the public to invest thousands of pounds in plots of land that they falsely claimed that they were seeking planning permission for.

“The companies said this planning permission was highly likely to be obtained and would result in a significant increase in the value of the land. In reality, no steps had been taken to obtain planning permission and there was very little prospect of any being granted.”

John Chandler was the sole director of Sutton Wells and JCB Marketing, and joint director with Jeanette of Curved Ball. She was also the sole director of NSS Operations. John Mahon was the director of Brand Trader, and also of Green Crest Homes, along with Andrew Bromley.

The Insolvency Service would not say if it is seeking director disqualifications.