THE Government has served a winding up petition to close down an East Lancashire business.

Store First Limited, which has its headquarters in Padiham and storage warehouses in Blackburn and Burnley, said it intends to "defend these proceedings vigorously".

It also stressed it had always "worked in an open and transparent manner" since its formation six years ago.

The petition for the nationwide firm has been presented to the High Court by The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, according to the London Gazette website.

Store First Blackburn Limited, Store First Midlands Limited and Store First St Helens Limited also face winding up petitions.

They were served on May 11 but the information did not appear online until May 31.

The firm became recognisable thanks to successful advertising campaigns by former Top Gear presenter Quentin Wilson and American TV star Jesse McClure as well as sponsoring Accrington Stanley's football stadium for a period.


A spokesman for the Insolvency Service said it was not appropriate to comment on an ongoing court case but said in a statement it had the power to apply for a company to be wound up where they have "received information that suggests serious corporate abuse".

The spokesman said: "We have the power to conduct confidential investigations into limited companies and limited liability partnerships where we have received information that suggests serious corporate abuse. If we feel it is appropriate, we may apply to the court for a company to be wound up and/ or for one or more directors to be disqualified."

A spokesman for Store First Limited, of Group First House, Mead Way, Padiham, said the firm was surprised to have received the winding up order as it had "cooperated fully with the Secretary of State’s enquiry" and were "surprised to have received proceedings".

The Store First spokesman said: "We can confirm that winding up proceedings have been served on us. We have instructed our solicitors and intend to defend these proceedings vigorously.

"Given that High Court proceedings are now in progress, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage pending our formal response to the proceedings.

"We are advised that the proceedings could take many months.

"We believe firmly in our business model and that is why over the years we have worked in an open and transparent manner with the regulators explaining how our business operates.

"Indeed, we cooperated fully with the Secretary of State’s enquiry and had understood it to have concluded and were therefore surprised to have received proceedings at this point."

The company did not say how many people it employs when asked by the Lancashire Telegraph.

A spokesman for the Serious Fraud Office said the winding up petition was not connected with a separate investigation into pension schemes which had invested in pods from Store First.

Capita Oak Pension and Henley Retirement Benefit schemes, Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPS) as well as other storage pod investment schemes are being investigated over fraud allegations. The amounts invested total over £120million, the Serious Fraud Office said.

Store First or its product of storage pods and the company is not connected with the running of any pension scheme being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office or any other scheme.

On its website Store First, whose managing director is Toby Whittaker, said it was the number one choice for self storage, offering individuals and businesses the cleanest, safest and cheapest solutions in the UK.

The winding up petition is set to be heard at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre on August 1.