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Planning consultancy launches socio economics service with new director hire

Economic Development | News

Socio economics and research expert Simon Macklen has joined Marrons Planning as director of economics – expanding the leading Midlands planning consultancy’s portfolio of services.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the industry, Simon will head up Marrons Planning’s new socio economics service, which will support developers in evidencing the need for and impact of schemes on the local population, social infrastructure and the economy in planning proposals.

In his new role, Simon will be responsible for setting up the new service line – which will complement the consultancy’s existing planning services, including planning applications and appeals, environment statements and commercial assessments – and growing the team in the future.

Simon, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “Marrons Planning is a forward-thinking consultancy that clearly sees the role of socio economic-related work as of significant benefit to its client base.

“I enjoy drawing out the need for development and its impact on the surrounding population and, in particular, identifying the benefits of a scheme to the local community that are quite often hidden or not so obvious. This insight can also help inform a client’s commercial decision-making process.

Simon graduated from the University College London with a degree in town and country planning in 1996. He then started his career at Dixons Stores Group where he was part of the firm’s graduate programme, before moving to its property function and establishing a location planning team.

In 2005, Simon joined The Littman Partnership as a planning associate, before spending 15 years at Barton Willmore, leading the practice’s development economics department.

He was heavily involved in the development of how housing numbers should be assessed at a local level across the country following the abolition of regional planning strategies. He has also evidenced the economic benefits of many large commercial and residential schemes, including large urban extensions, as well as supporting proposals for a number of regeneration schemes, with evidence on social infrastructure and economic impact.

Simon said: “The Marrons Planning team has been very welcoming and I am looking forward to using my experience to develop the consultancy’s socio economic offering, which will complement the existing skills of the wider team and provide clients with a broader range of in-house services that positively respond to latest government and local planning requirements.

Marrons Planning’s new socio economics service will include: market intelligence – such as consumer profiling and labour market studies – to build a picture of an area and see how the development would fit into its needs; population modelling to understand how an area will change to assess future housing and employment needs; and impact assessments looking at a development’s impression on the community it will sit within.

Brian Mullin, partner and head of Marrons Planning, said: “This is a really exciting new venture for us and one that will allow us to combine town planning and evaluation skills with socio-demographic and economic analysis to provide robust evidence that will inform commercial decision-making and successful planning outcomes.

“We’re well-known for providing planning advice that helps inform our clients’ decision-making process, driving projects forward and using our close working relationships with local planning authorities to help unlock strategic sites.

“Now, we’ll also be able to provide our clients with the tools needed to respond to the requirements of the National Planning Policy framework and substantiate and communicate the full range of benefits their proposals will deliver.

Simon’s appointment comes a few months after Marrons Planning hired RIBA chartered architect and urban design expert Alex Craggs in support of its newly-launched urban design service.

We caught up with Simon about his new role:

What attracted you to Marrons Planning?

The role and the people. Marrons Planning clearly sees the benefit of developing its own socio-economic team to both its client base and also as an enabler of growth, allowing it to compete more effectively through a broader service offering with other national planning consultancies.

The team have been very welcoming and I am looking forward to developing the offer.

What do you hope to achieve while working for us?

Provide a nationally competitive offer that complements the existing services offered by Marrons Planning and the wider AMPA groups, broadening the range of services offered to clients.

What do you find interesting in your area of expertise and why can people across the firm refer work to you?

The variety – every instruction is different. However, each tends to relate back to the need for a development and its impact on the surrounding local population. I enjoy drawing that evidence out, and particularly the benefits of a scheme to a local community that are quite often hidden or not so obvious.

Also providing insight to help inform the commercial decision-making process – whether it be identifying future property requirements, assessing opportunities against business requirements, or optimising a property portfolio.

Published: 2nd November 2021
Area: Economic Development

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Marrons is a multi-service development consultancy backed by the experience of working for local authorities, extensive market intel and connections across the industry - from planning offices and private landowners to housebuilders and retailers.

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