The Lawyer Inquiry: Colin Troup

A Proposed flagship Solicitors Property Centre (SPC) has collapsed and the opening date of the others has been postponed once again to next January.

SPC plans to get groups of local solicitors to band together to sell property in 40 centres across England and Wales while it, as the parent company, takes on the marketing.

But five firms on the Isle of Wight – Buckell & Drew, James Eldridge & Sons, Glanvilles, Walter Gray & Co and Robinson Jarvis & Rolf – which signed up to SPC earlier this year and were expected to open one of the first property centres, have shelved the plan.

A source said the firms had baulked at the estimated £50,000 it would cost each firm to start up the centre. He added that attention had also been distracted by a merger between two of the firms – Glanvilles and Buckell & Drew.

The first property centres, including the one on the Isle of Wight, were originally scheduled to open earlier this year, but two months ago SPC director of operations Tony Bogan told The Lawyer the launch date had slipped to "the end of autumn".

Last week, Bogan said the centres now in the running to open first – thought to be Portsmouth, Leicester, Preston and South Wales – would not be opening until next January.

SPC's management has closed down its headquarters in Guildford and moved the entire operation to SPC director Richard Berenson's offices in London.

Berenson said the Guildford office had only been an "experiment" and that "everything worked better from London anyway".

Bogan confirmed that after an initial rush of 700 firms signing up by May, recruitment had "slowed considerably". He added: "This is not a problem and we are still ahead of our projections." Firms signing up with SPC pay £750 each which is not refundable. Bogan added that the £750 was spent on devising a business plan for each area and that 28 per cent of firms had already received such a plan.

He said the latest delay was due to problems locating premises for the property centres and added: "November is a not a good time to open."

One solicitor who is co-ordinating the set-up of a local centre due to open later next year, expressed concern about the latest slip in the timetable.