Planning consultancy launches socio economics service with new director hire


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.

Get In Contact

Simon is Director of Economics at Marrons Planning and supports clients in the delivery of socio economic evidence underpinning development proposals.

Welcome to Marrons Planning. We advise on all planning matters - from co-ordinating major teams dealing with large and complex development proposals, to small scale development on infill sites.

Guides & Advice

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Lockdown has highlighted that the UK housing crisis isn't purely about quantity, it's also about quality. A form of revolution is needed, with developers adding residents' wellbeing to their priority lists, as well as speed.

Luckily, the recent launch of 'Building for a Healthy Life' (BHL) could be the answer.

Read the Building for a Healthier life toolkit publication here.

The impact of unsuitable housing

Well-lit private spaces and nearby green areas are no longer added extras, they are necessities. For the many people who live in urban areas with limited access to these, the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, having stopped them from being able to escape their four walls.

Space saving is often the main focus for city developments, ensuring maximum capacity in a minimal area. However, this approach doesn't consider wellbeing and instead relies on residents being able to leave to meet their wider basic needs.

This one-size-fits all approach to the housing crisis is not an effective solution, and it's time to try something new.

What is Building for a Healthier Life (BHL)?

Backed by Homes England, BHL has been created to replace 'Building for Life 12' (Bfl 12). Simply put, the goal of these new guidelines is to encourage housing developers to weave health and wellbeing into their plans.

BHL's predecessor, BfL 12, was made up of 12 set questions designed to help assess the quality of housing schemes. Aspects such as facilities, tenure types and private spaces were covered, but many used it as a quick tick-box system, rather than truly considering how they could improve their sites.

However, BHL appears to have moved away from this question and answer process.

'How-to' guides for healthy spaces

The purpose of BHL is for architects and planners to submit evidence that shows exactly how wellbeing elements are to be implemented.

By providing visual aids that act as "how to" guides for healthy spaces, BHL enables developers to pick and choose the design cues that they feel would benefit their own housing schemes.

Wellbeing considerations

There is one thing that BHL has taken from BfL 12, and that is the idea of having 12 main considerations for developers. These have been split into three categories:

  • Integrated neighbourhoods;
  • Distinctive places; and
  • Streets for all.

Individual elements include 'homes for everyone', 'well defined streets and spaces' and 'green and blue infrastructure'.

Each element should be taken in context with the development, rather than followed as a checklist, to ensure the result will fully benefit all residents.

Building long-term housing is essential

In future, decision makers must ensure that wellbeing considerations are included in development plans wherever possible. Although speed is still necessary to tackle the housing crisis, homes built for the long-term must become part of the solution. Hopefully, BHL and the pandemic will lead to more developers building with health in mind.

Helping you to achieve the best outcome

If you're in the early stages of a development, we can help you to utilise the toolkit. Our team of specialist town and country planners will guide you through the process and work alongside you to demonstrate to the decision-maker why your scheme has been designed in a specific manner.

Contact us

For advice and support on how you can use BHL to your advantage, or any other planning query, contact Sachin Parmar  and Brian Mullin in our planning consultancy team Marrons Planning.

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