Chartered town planner Karen Read founded her own consultancy at the beginning of 2015 to provide support and advice to commercial companies using the planning system.
When setting up klr Planning, Karen spotted activity in the commercial property market was picking up and developers were looking to fast-forward projects that had been on hold in previous years.
She reflects: “As my background is in economic development and regeneration, I am genuinely excited to be involved in projects that will bring new investment to an area, improve the places people live and create new jobs”.
Karen proudly counts brands such as Aldi Stores, Ascent Homes (Arch Development Projects Ltd), Newcastle Building Society, Remondis (JBT Waste), KFC and Dysart Developments, amongst her clients and has secured planning permissions for a range of prestigious projects.
This includes a 2800-capacity community sports arena on Scotswood Road, which will become the permanent home for Newcastle Eagles basketball team, the regeneration of the former Hexham Bus Station for mixed retail, leisure and residential use, a new auditorium and outdoor performance space as part of the Sunderland Arts and Culture Quarter and a number of new Aldi stores throughout the North East.
Most recently, Karen has secured planning permission for an Everyman Cinema and café bar in the former Legends nightclub on Grey Street in Newcastle.
Karen believes her success – in what is typically perceived as a male-dominated industry –has been down to her ambition and hard work. She comments: “As one of just a few women working in the commercial property industry, particularly at the beginning of my career, I’ve never felt this has been a disadvantage. A desire to be good at my job, putting in the hours, and a healthy competitive streak means I have progressed in my career in the property industry.”
Professional milestones – which underpin Karen’s philosophy that sheer hard work pays off – include being appointed in senior roles in national planning consultancies in Manchester and Newcastle and setting up a regional office in the North East for a national firm.
However, it’s running klr Planning that offers Karen the most satisfaction in her career so far.
“It’s enormously gratifying to dispel the assumption that some often make, that larger national consultancies offer a better service than smaller firms. The results that I achieve for clients speak for themselves,” she says.
Karen is delighted with how her business has developed over the past three years and feels privileged to be working with amazing clients and business partners on some exciting North East projects.
She concludes: “I am now thinking about the growth of the business and how that will look. It may be through collaboration, partnership or employing people, but with the political turmoil, and potential impact on the economy, I am taking my time working out my plans. But however I choose to scope this out, I can honestly look back and say that I am pleased with my progress to date, while learning not to take anything for granted along the way.”