SIX directors who operated a 'land bank' involving prime land near Burnley have been disqualified as company directors after a major probe by the Official Receiver.

Land off Red Lees Road, Cliviger, known as the 'Hollinsfield development' had been bought up cheaply and then resold to potential investors as part of a sophisticated but misleading property investment operation, the organisation said.

Like the Cliviger site, similar deals were struck on plots in the Ormskirk, York, Norwich, Bromsgrove and Cheshunt areas, all with little prospect of securing residential planning permissions from local authorities.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported two years ago how a string of companies, with names like Raincode, Boldacre, MRT Land Holdings and Dakota Partners International, had been wound up by the Official Receiver.

Now the government agency has been successful in securing company director disqualifications totalling 74 years for the leading lights in the land banking scandal, which saw plots obtained for as little as £200 each resold for between £7,500 and £20,000.

Carl Anthony Ballard, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, a director of Boldacre and Raincode, and Mark John Tull, of Lowestoft, Suffolk, a director of MRT and Boldacre, and Stephen John Wheeler, of Bridgwater, Somerset, boss of Century Property Group, were each banned from being company directors for 14 years.

Tull's father, Michael Rodney Tull, also of Lowestoft and only connected with MRT, was given a seven-year disqualification.

Christopher Farhat Gill, of Bexley Heath, Kent, and Imran Rasool, also of Eastleigh, directors at Dakota Partners, were given 14 and 11-year bans respectively. Their firm only received income from the sales but they were still pursued by investigators.

Matthew Stone, a senior examiner in the Official Receiver’s public interest unit at the Insolvency Service, said: “All of the land banking companies that we dealt with, have brought misery and in some instances, tragedy, to unsuspecting members of the public, who were persuaded to part with their savings in exchange for virtually worthless plots of land.

“In over seven years of investigating land banking scams, I have not seen a single piece of land that has been sold actually go on to obtain planning permission "Every single customer has lost their money in what was a horrendous investment. Whilst land can obviously be a secure investment, the way in which these companies sell it ultimately means there is no viable exit strategy for their so-called investment."

The investigation also uncovered significant issues with the books and records of all the companies involved, including a lack of documentation to explain payments worth millions to various parties named in the probe.