Natural Devon’s Board brings together for the first time leaders from sectors including agriculture, health, business, academia and education. These high-level strategic thinkers and advocates provide our strategic leadership.
Dates, agendas and minutes for / from Board meetings.
Further information on the purpose of the Board can be found in the Terms of Reference.
Dr James Szymankiewicz (Chair)
James Szymankiewicz is a GP working in North Devon. He is currently Chair of the GP Collaborative Board representing the 22 North Devon practices. He has previously been a Devon CCG locality board member and involved in the Sustainability and Transformation Plan review process. A passionate environmentalist, he has worked with a number of organisations over the years and is a founder member of Plastic Free North Devon, which he currently chairs. James has seen first-hand the toll our modern lifestyles take on our physical and mental health. He believes strongly that helping our communities reconnect with the natural world brings enormous benefits to individuals and the environment. Key to success with this is understanding peoples beliefs, values and the economic challenges they face. He brings extensive experience in partnership working and an enthusiasm and drive for protecting and improving our natural environment.
When he is not working, James enjoys most sports and is a coach at his local rugby and surf lifesaving clubs. As a keen surfer he spends as much time as possible in the sea with his family!
Professor Martin Attrill (represents university/academic institutions)
Since May 2009, Prof. Martin Attrill has been Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth. He is a marine ecologist whose primary research interest focuses on the mechanisms behind long-term change and large-scale spatial patterns in marine assemblages and populations. He has been working with long-term data from marine fish and invertebrate populations found within a range of habitats, such as the Thames Estuary, Brazilian coral reefs and the open Atlantic Ocean. This work has also included investigating the role of climate variation on fish, corals and plankton.
He has published over 100 research papers, primarily on fish and benthic systems such as seagrass, and also has current projects investigating the roles of Marine Protected Areas, such as the new DEFRA designation in Lyme Bay.
Professor Attrill is the Biodiversity Impacts Coordinator for the Wave Hub Project hosted through PRIMaRE (Primary Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), which extends his interest in human impacts to large-scale offshore renewable developments and how we can effectively and suitably monitor their interaction with the environment.
Lead for LNP priority theme, sustainable seas.
Harry Barton (represents non-governmental natural environment organisations)
Harry joined Devon Wildlife Trust in October 2011, having spent the previous five years as Chief Executive of the Earth Trust in Oxfordshire. He has worked for 20 years in the environmental sector, including spells at the Council for National Parks, Kew Gardens, CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, where he was Assistant Director (Policy and Development).
Harry studied Geography at Durham University (BSc) and then Environmental Policy at Wye College, University of London (MSc). He has a passion for the environment and a particular interest in landscape scale conservation. Although new to the Devon Wildlife Trust, he has known and loved the county’s landscapes and coast for much of his life.
Harry’s other interests include cycling, martial arts, music and issues surrounding disability, especially autism.
Lead for LNP aim, to protect and improve Devon’s natural environment.
Robin Milton (represents landowners/land managers)
Robin Milton is an Exmoor upland farmer who runs a mixed family farm, a pedigree Aberdeen Angus suckler herd and commercial sheep flock, on 1000 acres of bye and common land. Robin joined the family partnership in 1990, whilst continuing agricultural consultancy work, after graduating from Wye College in 1982. In 2010, the family were winners of Devon FWAG’s Bronze Otter Award and the North Devon Biosphere Sustainable Farming Award.
Robin has previously held the role of NFU (National Farmers’ Union) Branch Chairman and is currently NFU National Uplands Forum Chairman. He is chairman of the NFU South West Uplands Group , Withypool Commoners’ Association, and West Anstey Commoners’ Group; as well as a member of CLA (Country Land and Business Association) and Devon CLA committee member.
Robin is the Secretary of State National Appointee to Exmoor National Park Authority, 2010; Vice Chairman of Resource and Performance Committee; and sits on both the Parish and Consultative Forum and Exmoor Local Access Forum.
He is a member of the DEFRA Upland Stakeholder Group, Upland Land Management Advisory Panel and Water Quality Panel, as well as a Local Parish Councillor.
Lead for LNP priority theme, farming with nature.
Dr Virginia Pearson (represents the Devon Health and Wellbeing Board)
Dr Virginia Pearson has been Devon’s Joint Executive Director of Public Health since 2007. Her professional background is medicine. She has worked as a GP and as a hospital doctor; in both service and academic public health (at the University of Bristol), and in general management as a chief executive of a primary care trust.
Lead for LNP priority theme, naturally healthy.
Jill Davies, Chief Officer, South Hams Community & Voluntary Services (CVS)
(represents the voluntary and community sector)
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Michaela Barwell (represents the DEFRA family)
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Chris Woodruff (represents protected landscapes)
Chris set up the East Devon AONB Partnership/Team in 2002 having worked at all levels of local government, for conservation charity BTCV and prior to that the RAF. His role as manager for the East Devon AONB Partnership encompasses strategy, policy, finance, and project delivery. He has been former member on a number of boards including Chair of the Keith Owen Fund, member of the Devon Countryside Access Forum and Director for the NAAONB. Locally, he chairs Sidbury Millennium Green Trust and enjoys supporting village events with his family alongside his many sporting interests
David Weatherly (represents Schools and Life-long learning)
David Weatherly is a School Improvement Adviser and a curriculum consultant for Geography, Environmental Education and Sustainability working across all stages of formal education from Early Years through to post 16 settings. For over twenty years he taught and held senior management roles at schools in London and the south west. As a school improvement adviser he works to increase pupil engagement and raise attainment at schools throughout the country and internationally. Much of his time is spent training practising and trainee teachers. He is an Associate Adviser within the school improvement team of LDP Babcock in Devon and a primary and secondary geography consultant at the Geographical Association. In addition he also undertakes a very wide range of school improvement work for LAs in the UK as well as NGOs and government agencies in Britain and abroad.
Lead for LNP priority theme, outdoor learning.
Alison Kohler (represents Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks)
Alison Kohler joined Dartmoor National Park Authority in 1988 as a Recreation Planner. Since then she has performed a number of roles for the Authority including recreation management, access and tourism, all of which required an understanding of wider land management across the National Park.
Alison took up a senior management role as Head of Recreation, Rangers and Estates in 2007 and this was followed in 2009 by a new post as Head of Biodiversity, Farming and Tourism; her responsibilities have therefore encompassed most of the Authority’s interests.
In September 2010 Alison became the Director of Sustainable Communities and took up her most recent post as Director of Conservation and Communities in April 2012. In her spare time Alison enjoys walking and cycling and exploring other National Parks both in this country and abroad.
Iain Vosper (represents Businesses)
Iain Vosper is the Regulatory Director of South West Water with overall responsibility for the Company’s long term environmental strategy, including the development and delivery of the Company’s strategy for climate change adaptation and water resources strategy, and environmental business plan submissions to the Company’s regulators. Iain has held senior roles within South West Water’s Operations and Finance and Regulatory Directorates before his appointment to Regulatory Director in February 2015. Iain was responsible for planning and leading the delivery of the PR14 programme, and most recently, leading preparations for non-household retail market opening and the development of further upstream market reform. Iain is a qualified chartered accountant.
Mark Williams (represents Local Authorities)
Mark Williams is Chief Executive of East Devon District Council. His major areas of focus have been building high performance teams in a challenging financial environment as well as bringing the East Devon Growth Point area to implementation. This has included the new town of Cranbrook and the Exeter Science Park.
In March 2010, he was appointed as a shared chief executive for South Somerset District Council and East Devon District Council. This was a joint initiative to save money and ensure both Councils could share best practice. This sharing agreement came to an end in 2015 and Mark is now back full time in East Devon managing an agenda which includes an office relocation project, plugging a funding gap estimated to be £2.8 million over the next five years, and in particular managing the ongoing Greater Exeter, Greater Devon project in collaboration with Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District Council and Devon County council.
Mark Wallace (represents the Arts and Culture Sector)
Mark Wallace has been director of Beaford Arts – England’s longest-established rural arts initiative, based in North Devon – since 2007, and a vice-chair of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Partnership since 2011. He has chaired the regional sector agencies Theatre South West and Audience South West and serves on Arts Council England’s National Rural Stakeholders Group. He has a Masters in Economics.