Our team at Rural Solutions comprises a unique group of experienced specialists. Each team member brings their own insight and background, that together offer a wealth of knowledge to make rural diversification successful.

  • Our advisory team consists of property professionals, business consultants, analysts and researchers offering an unrivalled combination of experience and expertise to maximise clients’ commercial success.
  • Our planning department is built on a foundation of senior, ex-local authority planning policy and management personnel. The team continues to grow in skill as we specialise and keep up to date with rural development issues and challenges.
  • Our architecture and project management business offers the creativity of a design led architectural practice with the rigour and discipline of quantity surveyors, project management and a firm grounding in commerciality.

Every client is different. Together, we bring innovation, entrepreneurialism and passion to every new project.

Mark Hancock BSc (Hons), MA


A well-known figure in the commercial property world, a rugby blue from Cambridge and a wealth of interests in both urban and rural business. Mark brings verve, enthusiasm and rigour to Rural Solutions. His business acumen combined with his passion for all things rural is best demonstrated in the work he has done on his own estates in the Yorkshire Dales.

William Fry BSc (Hons), MBA, MRICS

Managing Director

William is a hugely experienced businessman and chartered surveyor. There can be very few people in the rural sector who have the experience in diversification and development to match. His commitment to developing and growing the Rural Solutions business is mirrored in his ability to help clients develop ideas and deliver successful schemes across commercial, residential, tourism and leisure sectors. He also plays a pretty brutal brand of tennis.

Duncan Hartley, BSc, MA, DipTRP


Duncan is a poacher turned gamekeeper (or vice versa) as he has considerable experience working in the public sector as Chief planning Officer of two rural local authorities. His private practice work has seen him achieve considerable success in projects across the board including, new country houses, retail development, residential and renewables. He stands as expert witness on rural sustainability for developers, land promoters and their legal teams as well as a considerable amount of work for landed estates.

Rob Hindle, BSc (Hons), MRICS


Rob’s twenty years in rural planning and development has seen him bring Rural Solutions to the forefront of expertise in rural planning particularly in relation to understanding rural communities and sustainability. His understanding of ‘vitality’ and what it means for the long-term development of rural communities is key to the success of many residential and commercial schemes across rural England and Wales.

James Del Mar, BSc FRICS


James has over 25 years’ experience of advising the owners of rural estates, properties and businesses across the UK. He has increasingly focused on rural property consultancy, specialising in strategic estate planning, recruitment of key staff and advice to enhance his clients’ enjoyment, revenue and capital positions.
A fellow of the RICS and a Rural Board member, he sits on the National Trust’s Commercial Advisory Board and has guided the owners of a large number of the most significant estates. When not on estates he tends to be found on the water – either in a rowing boat or with fishing rod in hand.

Heather Hancock

Non Executive Director

Heather’s experience has touched all areas of the rural sector. Initially, a land agent, then moving onto public sector where amongst other posts she was the driving force behind the Department of National Heritage and the Millennium Commission. From then, she was an Executive Director at Yorkshire Forward and onto part of the global leadership team at Deloitte working for the international Olympic movement until her retirement in 2014. Since then, amongst other positions Heather is Chairman of the Foods Standard Agency. She also partakes in many hobbies including gardening and shooting.

Willy Browne-Swinburne

Business Development – North

Willy worked in the world of advertising and marketing with15 years at JWT in London. Returning to Northumberland in 2008 he has focussed on the diversification of his own house and estate in Northumberland. He is a trustee of The Tyne Rivers Trust, Northern Ambassador for the Red Squirrel Survival Trust and Chairman of the Northumberland & Durham Committee of The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Rob Jones-Davies, BA (Hons)

Business Development – South West

Rob previously worked for Middleton Advisors sourcing country houses and estates gaining invaluable knowledge and experience within the property sector. Having sailed across the Atlantic and cycled from Moscow to London he also has a broad perspective on the world.

Hannah Fell

Office Manager

Hannah has vast experience within the office management field with a track record of delivering creative and imaginative solutions to problems. She is very good at effectively influencing decisions and developing positive and ongoing relationships with experience across a range of business activities such as project coordination, financial management, sales, client management, accounts and the implementation of policy and effective working procedures.

Paula Onea, BA, MBA

Head of Consultancy

Paula spent a decade as a management consultant and senior credit analyst in one of the biggest European financial institutions. Within her financial and consulting roles, Paula has provided assessment and advice on a large number of investment projects in the private and public sectors. She has worked on developing projects, strategies, financial restructuring and fund raising.

James Podesta, BA (Hons), Dip TP, MRTPI

Head of Planning

James is an experienced chartered planner with a background in private sector consultancy planning spanning over fifteen years. He is the head of the planning team at Rural Solutions, focusing on strategic planning and development opportunities. He has worked in both urban and rural environments and is practiced across a range of development projects of all scales. He has a solid understanding of the ever changing planning landscape and detailed appreciation of wider community and economic influences on project delivery.

Malcolm Birks, MA (Cantab), Dip Arch, MPhil, RIBA

Head of Architecture and Project Management

Malcolm is a Chartered Architect and trained at Cambridge University and the Architectural Association and has worked for small and large practices, delivering projects ranging from small-scale to £23 million in value. These have included new schools, offices and housing. He also has a Masters in Environmental Design and has considerable experience working with existing buildings in sensitive contexts.