STORAGE centres which were at the heart of a High Court battle are set to be controlled again from East Lancashire.

Earlier this year the Insolvency Service took legal action which saw Store First, Store First Blackburn, Store First St Helens and SFM Services officially wound up.

The proceedings against the Padiham-based outfits, prompted by concerns over their investment model, covered storage centres in Blackburn and Burnley, alongside 13 other locations.

Now the Official Receiver has confirmed that the freeholds, assets and goodwill associated with the 15 sites have now been transferred to Store First Freeholds Ltd.

And the assets of the services company, SFM, have been handed to Pay Store, which operates from Mead Way, Padiham.

Investors have been informed that if they were purchasing a storage pod, prior to the liquidation, then their interests should not be affected.

An Insolvency Service spokesman said: “The purchasers have confirmed that they intend to continue renting the self-storage units to end users and that Pay Store will continue to manage the storage sites on a day-to-day basis using the name Store First.”

An agreement is said to have been drawn up between the Official Receiver and Store First which would give six months for the ongoing purchases of any storage pods, not legally verified before the liquidation, to be concluded.

The deal would also see requests by investors to surrender their pods accepted, with Pay Store covering any of the associated costs but no payments being issued to the former owners.

Storage pods which are deemed to be unusable can also be exchanged for a facility of the same size and dimension, it has been concluded, subject to availability.

Investors will also be given assistance to apply for business rates relief.

Perhaps most significantly, Store First has given an undertaking not to market or sell storage pods for investment purposes. The company had been offering guaranteed returns of around eight per cent on the pods at one time, which would rise to 10 per cent in later years.

An investigation into the cause of the liquidation of the four companies is still ongoing, the service has confirmed, “including any business dealings and affairs, and reporting on the conduct of the directors”.

The Lancashire Telegraph understands that the prospective arrangement had caused raised eyebrows within the self-storage industry.

But the Insolvency Service has defended the outcome as being the best result for the thousands of people who had invested with Store First.

A spokesman said: “As liquidator of Store First and the associated companies, the Official Receiver has a duty to realise the assets in the interests of the creditors.

“The sale of the freehold, associated assets and goodwill of the 15 storage centres to Store First Freeholds Limited, as well as the sale assets of SFM Services Limited to Pay Store Limited, represented the best outcome for creditors.”

Store First was unavailable for comment last night.