Luton Airport fire: firm that built car park went bust - despite being in the middle of building stadiums for Liverpool, Fulham and Birmingham City

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The firm which built the burned-down Luton Airport car park collapsed five weeks ago despite being in the middle of building football stadiums for Liverpool, Fulham and Birmingham City

The company which built Luton Airport’s car park that went up in flames yesterday (Wednesday 11 October) went bust five weeks ago - and is involved in the building of new football stadiums. Buckingham Contracting Group, based in Buckinghamshire, won the £20m contract in July 2018 to redevelop the car park facilities at Luton Airport.

The firm ceased trading and issued a notice of intention to appoint administrators on 17 August, despite having been behind some of the biggest buildings in Milton Keynes including Stadium MK and being involved in building new football stadiums for major clubs. The firm was in the middle of building a new stand at Anfield stadium for Liverpool FC Anfield and redeveloping Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage Riverside Stand. It was also carrying out the repair works at St Andrew’s for Birmingham City football club and Northampton Town’s East Stand.

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Almost 450 employees lost their jobs as a result of the collapse of the company. The firm was the biggest construction company to go into administration since Carillion, based in Wolverhampton, which folded in January 2018.

Buckingham Contracting Group had beaten four other competitors when it secured the contract to redevelop the car park at Luton Airport. On its website the firm stated that “significant cash flow pressures and subsequent losses” caused it to go into administration.

On 4 September 2023, Rob Parker, Jon Roden and Kevin Coates of Grant Thornton UK LLP were appointed as joint administrators of the firm - as some of the business was saved by civil engineering firm Kier. Mr Parker said that the Grant Thorton team would “work with the employees affected to support them through this process.” When announcing the administration, Mike Kempley, Chairman at Buckingham Group Contracting, said it was an “extremely sad day”.

Firm behind Luton Airport’s car park is bust - and left football stadiums unfinished. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Getty Images) Firm behind Luton Airport’s car park is bust - and left football stadiums unfinished. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Getty Images)
Firm behind Luton Airport’s car park is bust - and left football stadiums unfinished. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Getty Images) | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg

NationalWorld contacted Grant Thornton UK LLP for comments on Buckingham Contracting Group involvement in the building of Luton Airport’s car park and the fears it raises for other projects it has been involved in in recent months. However, Grant Thornton said it has no comment at this time.

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Luton Airport was closed for the majority of the day yesterday after a huge blaze ripped through the airport’s multi-story car park, damaging up to 1,500 vehicles. The fire started on Tuesday evening (10 October) at around 9pm with emergency services racing to the scene to put out the flames.

All outbound flights from the airport were suspended until 3pm and inbound flights were diverted. The fire was put out by yesterday morning, leaving hundreds of cars damaged and partially collapsing the multi-storey Terminal Car Park 2.

Four firefighters and a member of airport staff were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and another firefighter was treated at the scene. Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the fire at the airport was started with a diesel vehicle. He also said that the car park was not fitted with sprinklers and there is no suggestion the blaze happened intentionally.

Mr Hopkinson said: “We have no intelligence at this stage to suggest that this was anything other than an accidental fire that started in one of the vehicles that had not long arrived at the airport. It was not an EV. This was a diesel powered vehicle.” AA technical expert Greg Carter added that the most common cause of car fires is an electrical fault with the 12-volt battery system. Mr Carter said diesel is "much less flammable" than petrol, and in a car it takes "intense pressure or sustained flame" to ignite diesel.

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