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In conversation with Lichfields


Ahead of our Annual Conference in Birmingham tomorrow, we spoke to Ciaran Gunne-Jones, Senior Director, Head of Economics, at Lichfields, one of our conference Gold Sponsors – including about Revitalise, Lichfields’ new toolkit for delivering town centre transformation.

Thank you for your sponsorship this year. What is your role at the forthcoming event?

Lichfields has been involved with the IED Annual Conference for many years, and we are delighted to be able to participate in this year’s conference particularly as part of the organisation’s 40th anniversary celebrations. The Annual Conference provides a really valuable opportunity for us to share insights with other economic development professionals, meet with clients and to network with stakeholders in the sector. Convening the conference in Birmingham for the first time also has added resonance for us, as it is home to Lichfields’ ninth and newest office which opened in 2019.”

The title of this year’s Annual Conference is ‘Grow for Good? Reappraising the UK's Growth Objectives’. What does that mean to you?

The country seems to be at something of an inflection point about how to drive future economic growth, what type of growth that should be, and how to ensure as many people and different parts of the country can benefit from it as possible. Amid so many other rapid changes in technology, environment and society, these can be difficult questions to answer. But what is also clear is the economy has faced many challenges in recent years and living standards have been under significant pressure for many communities, so some real immediacy is required around kick-starting growth in the short to medium term, whilst also creating a platform to harness the growth opportunities that change will bring in the longer term. The economic development community has a critical role to play in delivering both aspects.”

What aspects of the conference are you especially looking forward to?

The IED team has, as always, curated a really interesting and varied programme of speakers and topic sessions for this year’s Annual Conference. The breadth of the agenda shows just how many facets there are to current economic development practice, so the Lichfields team attending is looking forward to engaging with this. We will also be hosting one of the break-out sessions – this year on the theme of town centres – which is always a great opportunity to deep-dive into a particular policy area and share experiences and ideas with guest speakers.”

What do you think the next 18 months holds for economic development professionals?

We know there will be some shifting structures in terms of where economic development activity is focused as core funding for LEPs is withdrawn, potential for wider policy change in terms of local growth, planning and funding, and of course, ongoing pressures in the macro-economy that will impact everything from the skills to innovation agenda. It seems likely that economic development professionals will have plenty to contend with!” 

What services does Lichfields provide that may be able to help them?

“Economic development has been at the heart of Lichfields’ consultancy offer for over 60 years since the firm’s founding in 1962, and is a key part of our business today. We have advised on some of the UK’s largest planning projects and major infrastructure developments, worked with local and combined authorities nationally, and helped formulate strategies and plans for everything from new towns to freeports. We believe in offering high-quality, thoughtful and rigorous advice on behalf of our clients, harnessing the power of data and presenting our work in a clear and impactful way. A good example is Revitalise, our toolkit for delivering town centre transformation, which we will be launching at this year’s IED Annual Conference.”

Further details of the IED Annual Conference & Awards Dinner are available here.