Parks for London currently employs two members of staff. Tony Leach has been Director then Chief Executive (CE) of Parks for London since 2004. Nina Obhrai (0.8 fte) has worked for Parks for London since 2012 and is now the Executive Administrative and Finance Assistant.
Tony Leach Studied Horticulture at Bath University and went on to train as a Landscape Architect while working in four different London Boroughs over a period of eighteen years. Tony’s interest in people, project management and business development led him to manage a variety of urban regeneration projects in teams. In 1999 he set up an independent business consultancy, specialising in management and business development.
He was Director of the Parks for London from 2004 to 2014. In 2014 he was appointed CE. He has overseen a range of projects including: benchmarking, volunteering and London’s Strategic Parks. He has been Governor of Capel Manor College since 2008 and a Green Flag judge since 2002.
The President is Michael Fitt; see below for his biography.
Michael Fitt OBE FIHort FCMI
Mike Fitt was formerly the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Parks for London’s Royal Parks. He is a lifelong horticulturist and keen gardener with a special interest in the history of gardening, particularly in relation to parks and green spaces. Since taking early retirement he continues to be involved with a wide range of green space organisations across London and beyond. He is currently trustee of London In Bloom and The London Parks and Gardens Trust; a Green Flag judge as well as a judge for various In Bloom competitions; Chairman of The Royal Parks Guild and Honorary Historian for The Royal Parks. He was also Chair of the 2012 ‘Mad About Meadows’ project which was inspired by the meadows created in the Olympic Park.
The Board of Parks for London is made up 10 trustees and Tony Leach, CE. The Trustees have a diverse range of skills and experience from within the green sector and also from the legal, communications and financial sectors. The Chair is Nigel Thorne, the Vice Chair & Honorary Secretary is Jerry Gutwin and the Honorary Treasurer is Bernie Watson. The biographies of all trustees are given below.
The Board of Parks for London meets four times a year in March, June, September and December.
Biographies of Trustees
Nigel Thorne MSc FRSA FIHort FLI PPLI, Landscape Management Consultant (Chartered Landscape Architect)
Nigel is a chartered landscape architect, a Fellow of the Landscape Institute (LI), specialising in landscape and project management. He practices as an independent landscape consultant concentrating on contract administration and project implementation. He also works part-time for a variety of award-winning landscape architectural practices across the UK and internationally. He was a trustee of the LI for over 15 years, culminating in his role as president from 2006-2008. He currently represents the LI as a trustee on the board of the Architect’s Benevolent Society and also sits on the London Advisory Committee of Historic England. He was elected president of IFLA Europe at the beginning of 2010, completing his second and final term in office at the end of 2013. He works and teaches both nationally and internationally and regularly gives talks, seminars and lectures in order to promote the work of the profession around the world. In 2016 he became project manager for a £6.2 million publically financed heritage and conservation project (for the Royal Parks at Brompton Cemetery in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea) which aims to restore the built form historic heritage assets of the garden cemetery and to increase its relevance to local residents, communities and world-wide visitors.
Jerry Gutwin, Parks Services Manager, Islington Council
Vice Chair and Honorary Secretary
Jerry Gutwin has been in the green space sector for over twenty years and currently works for Islington Council. He has been the Vice Chair of Parks for London for two years. He is also a key player in the London Parks Benchmarking Group, where he put together the first draft of a standard specification that can be used London wide and with colleagues at Islington, he produced the first Quality Manual in London, that had both the complete specification and a pictorial view of the standards required. He is a passionate believer in collaborative working to use the breadth and depth of skills that are available to improve green space management in London and beyond.
On a personal level, Jerry is a keen juggler, a skill that also helps in his work life!!
Bernie Watson, Chartered Accountant
Bernie is a Chartered Accountant and holds the Diploma in Charity Accounting. He retired as a partner in Haysmacintyre, a firm of Chartered Accountants in March 2018. He had been a partner there for over thirty years, twelve of which were as Managing Partner. During his time as partner his clients included both corporate and not for profit organisations but over the last twenty years he has concentrated on the not for profit sector advising a large cross section of companies, trusts and mutual organisations. Post retirement he continues to assist the sector by both advising charities and by acting as a trustee. Bernie lives in Surrey and is married with two sons and a daughter. He takes a keen interest in both walking and gardening. He is a season ticket holder with both Harlequins rugby and Surrey Cricket Club.
Kate Brown, Group HR Director, Countrywide Plc
Kate joined Countrywide Plc as their first Group HR Director in March 2015. Countrywide is the UK leading provider of integrated property services, and has 80 high street brands, more than 930 branches along with over 13,000 colleagues. In 2016 Countrywide exchanged on over 60,000 properties and carried out 365,000 surveys and valuations.
Kate joined Countrywide from Bupa where she was People Director for International Development Markets. This consisted of seven business units across four geographical regions (Asia, Saudi Arabia, Europe and US) with 14,000 employees. Prior to Bupa, Kate spent nine years at RSA in a range of HR executive roles including Emerging Markets HR Director across 23 countries, Group Organisational Effectiveness Director responsible for Talent Management, Executive Development, Employee Engagement, Performance Management and Employer Brand and HR Director for the MoreThan business. During which time RSA was ranked in the Top 25 Sunday Times Best Companies to work and won the Gallup Global Workplace Award for two years running in 2012 and 2013. RSA also won the 2012 People Management Award for Employee Engagement as well as being named 2012 overall winner. In 2010 RSA won the CIPD Organisational Learning Award for Senior Leadership Development and were finalists for the CIB Skills and Training Award in March 2011. She worked at AXA for 5 years and began her career with Barclays on their General Management Leadership Development Programme.
Kate lives in West Sussex, and is married to Andy with two children Rosy and Sam.
Andrew Gill C Hort FCI Hort, Independent Parks Consultant
Andrew Gill has over 35 years’ experience in amenity horticulture, parks and resource management. His broad range of management experience includes 12 years in private sector contracts management and 15 years at senior management level in the public/charity sector. He is now an independent parks consultant and professional interim manager.
Andrew has delivered service improvements at several London Boroughs (LB) and was for 2.5 years seconded to the role of Chief Executive at Alexandra Palace & Park Charitable Trust; where he overhauled and modernised the governance of the charity and oversaw a number of capital projects, including the £2.3m replacement of the ice rink.
Prior to that assignment Andrew was Head of Parks & Bereavement Services at LB Haringey where he applied much of the skills and experience he gained at LB Newham as Performance Manager (Public Realm).
Andrew is President of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and has been a member for 25 years. Andrew sits on the Board of the Parks Alliance and also the London Parks Benchmarking Group committee, as well as the Board of Parks for London.
Andrew project managed the move of the LPGSF to become an independent charity, working on a pro bono basis. Andrew is very committed to supporting the LPGSF and he has chaired several Joint Open Day sessions.
Andrew Jones, Policy & Programmes Manager – Urban Greening, Greater London Authority
Andrew Jones has 25 years of working in the natural environment sector, primarily within in local and regional government. He has been a manager at the Greater London Authority’s since 2006 with a breadth of experience, leading the preparation of mayoral strategies, developing policy and implementing delivery programmes across a diverse range of environmental issues including biodiversity, green infrastructure, food, noise, animal welfare, waste and environmentally-led smart solutions. Programmes he has been responsible for include Mayoral commitments to increase green cover and tree cover, the improvement of parks and greenspaces and the greening of the built environment.
Prior to joining the GLA in 2006 he was Head of Natural Environment, Coasts and Countryside Partnerships for Kent County Council. He is a past chair of the Association of Local Government Ecologists and was a founder trustee of the Kent and Medway Biological Records Centre.
Colin Cooper, CE, South West London Environment Network
Colin Cooper is currently Chief Executive of a small environmental charity in south west London. He has worked in the third sector for ten years managing small organisations providing community development and support functions to other organisations. He has been a trustee of several charities and voluntary organisations (mainly environmental or infrastructure agencies) prior to joining the Board of Parks for London, where he is also Honorary Treasurer. He has Master’s Degree in Charity Management and is also a Fellow at the RSA. Before working in the charity sector he worked in retail sector mainly in project and spatial management, buying and managing farmers markets. He is passionate about the environment, parks and biodiversity particularly, and increasing community participation in their management, conservation and appreciation.
Craig Harris, Corporate/M&A Counsel, BAT
Craig is a qualified solicitor and has extensive legal experience with particular expertise in corporate and commercial law. He obtained a law degree from Sheffield University before completing his studies at Nottingham Law School. As well as sitting on the Board of Parks for London, Craig is currently Corporate/M&A Counsel at BAT and has previously worked at GlaxoSmithKline and Petro-Canada. He started his career at the prestigious City law firm Allen & Overy where he spent eight years and worked on a large range of legal matters and high profile transactions.
Craig grew up in rural Lancashire where he developed a passion for running and the countryside. He has lived in London for ten years and continues to run regularly making use of London’s parks and green spaces. Craig is keen to help support Parks for London’s excellent work in protecting the heritage of London’s parks for future generations. In his spare time Craig enjoys watching cricket at Lord’s, where he is an associate member, going to the cinema and cycling.
Liz Stark, Marketing & Digital Media Specialist and Independent Consultant
Liz is a communications professional with over a decade of advertising and marketing expertise. She obtained a BA (Hons) in Advertising and Marketing Communications from Bournemouth University. Since graduating, Liz has worked with a variety of blue-chip, SME, start-up and charity businesses to define their marketing objectives, strategy and communications roadmap. Previously she has been employed by international media agencies, client brands and creative teams and now works as an independent consultant
In 2014 she was awarded a Future Leaders Award grant by WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London) in recognition of a commitment to, and potential within, the industry. Liz sat on the monthly committee of the IPA’s (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) Digital Media Group.
This year Liz embarks on her biggest challenge yet: an MA in Landscape Architecture. An avid travel writer who calls beautiful Cornwall home, she loves the great outdoors. In this appointed trustee position, through further education and with her existing skills, Liz is eager to play a bigger role in shaping and promoting the green spaces we all enjoy.
Rebecca Lury, Policy & Public Affairs
Rebecca Lury is a Director at GK Strategy, where she works with a number of health and education clients, advising them on strategy, public affairs and communications. She is also the Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Culture, Leisure, Equalities and Communities in the London Borough of Southwark.
Rebecca is lucky enough to live on the doorstep of Burgess Park, and her cycle to work takes in a number of London parks. Rebecca is passionate about the link between health and parks, and is keen to ensure that we can continue to maximise investment in these important spaces.