Shaping future communities and making the case for place - ADEPT's new President steps up

23rd June, 2017
Simon Neilson, the new President of ADEPT, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, begins his term this week.

Stepping up from his role as ADEPT’s Vice-President, Simon, who is currently the Executive Director, Economy and Environment for Walsall Council, has been part of ADEPT’s Leadership Team since 2014.

All ADEPT Presidents have key ambitions for their term and Simon is no exception. For his year, he wants to see ADEPT focus on building alliances and driving the contemporary role of Place Directors, recognising the critical role they play in shaping, building and maintaining communities for the future.

Simon said: “ADEPT’s members have a multi-faced role, responsible for setting the strategic, long term direction for their communities as well as ensuring that core day to day services are delivered effectively.  It is vital we make the case for place.”

“Increasingly the role of ADEPT needs to become one of addressing future needs. Modern infrastructure is not just about the built environment, more fundamentally, it is about creating opportunity for people and developing the social, economic, digital and environmental frameworks necessary to create thriving communities.

“We do of course need to have an eye on the here and now: local authorities starved of funding are increasingly placed in a no-win scenario, cutting back key place services to shore up support to social care.  We are increasingly seeing the signs of public dissatisfaction in the state of our roads, environment and streets – visible to all communities that we serve.  We need to redefine the purpose and importance of place as a key enabler of people’s lives.

“Despite those challenges, ADEPT members are looking to 2035 and beyond, producing short and medium term priorities that work towards providing this more broadly defined infrastructure, to service the future digital and technological needs of their communities.”

For Simon, this long-term vision requires a focus on building partnerships, particularly with the private sector - alliances with those companies that work closely with local authorities in delivering services and shaping the future.

Simon continued: “In our day jobs, ADEPT members work with corporate delivery partners across housing, transport and waste management as well as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). The consolidation of LEPs as part of the enduring economic partnership landscape has brought civic and business leadership together – and through devolution, the advent of Combined Authorities and elected Mayors is rapidly changing the place landscape.”

“Such partnerships can only help us in our work with Government, shaping the development of new policy and offering local solutions to national challenges. These are critical relationships for ADEPT.”

Before joining Walsall Council, where he has been an Executive Director since July 2013, Simon was an Assistant Director at Essex County Council and has had a wide ranging career ignited by an interest in regeneration in Thames Gateway.  He also chaired the ADEPT Planning, Housing and Regeneration Board for two years.

On taking over from outgoing President Rupert Clubb, Simon said: “I want to thank Rupert for all his work for ADEPT over the past year. Under his leadership, the Association has continued to modernise and adapt itself to become increasingly outward looking, something that has been reflected in his commitment to developing new partnerships. ADEPT cannot succeed in isolation and the creation of our new Corporate Partners’ Membership Scheme is just one of Rupert’s key innovations. It’s a success I want to build on.”

ADEPT is the voice of Local Authority county, unitary and metropolitan Strategic Place Directors across England with responsibility for the key place based services, including transport, environment, planning, economic development, housing and waste.