TWO Bolton-based companies that ran a scam airport parking investment scheme have been liquidated after a court ruled they misled investors while making around £25 million.Cut

Aston Darby Group and Drake Estates sold spaces at Lode Park, near Manchester Airport, to investors for £25,000 each between October 2016 and December 2019, promising a return of 8% over the first two years.

But it has now emerged the companies did not even own the Manchester site at the time and had no legal entitlement to sell the 456 spaces on a leasehold basis.

Listed as a construction and property investment company based on Chorley Road, Bolton, Aston Darby Group also promised to pay 11 per cent a year to anyone willing to fork out £25,000 for a space in a Glasgow airport car park.

The company had been renovating the My Easy Park site on Paisley’s Harbour Road with a total of 1,050 spaces up for grabs.

Investors were promised the first two years’ worth of income – £5,500 – upfront as soon as they handed their cash over, with Aston Darby guaranteeing the 11% return for at least three years. It also said it would buy back any unwanted spaces after five years for the full amount paid or for 125% of the amount invested – £31,250 per space – after ten.

The Manchester site was later bought in the name of an offshore company acting as trustee for Drake Estates, but the transfer of the property’s title was not registered with the Land Registry. Insolvency Service investigators discovered investors’ returns were paid from their original investments rather than income from the car parks.

The companies made misleading claims in their sales brochures and marketing materials. Documents claimed that the sites were already generating yields of 8% and failed to make clear that the companies did not own the sites when initial sales were made.

Investigators established that between October 2016 and December 2019, Drake Estates and Aston Darby Group sold circa 456 car park spaces at the Lode Hill site in Manchester for close to £11.5 million. While Aston Darby Group sold more than 630 car park spaces at the Harbour Road site in Glasgow between April 2017 and December 2019 for more than £14.3 million.

No development activity has been undertaken to convert the Lode Hill site into a ‘state of the art’ car park that investors were led to expect.

Both companies were wound up in the public interest earlier this month at the High Court in Manchester, with Paul David Allen and Chad Griffin of FRP Advisory Trading appointed as joint liquidators.

Questioned by the Herald newspaper last August, chief executive Leigh Heywood defended his business and insisted the Glasgow car park investors were “exceedingly happy with their car park and the service they are getting”.

Heywood is also a director of Drake Estates, which has the same registered address as Aston Darby Group.

David Hope, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “These two companies unscrupulously secured millions of pounds worth of investments from members of the public using misleading sales tactics.

“The court rightly recognised the potential damage done to investors by Aston Darby Group Limited and Drake Estates Property Company Limited selling a flawed business model and has acted swiftly."