GM Future Leaders Mentors

Each Future Leaders candidate is paired with a senior mentor from our cross-sector network. These mentors provide a ‘safe space’ sounding board for candidates, as well as invaluable experience and insights from their own careers. See here for more about mentoring.

Sarah Ashurst – Head of Partnerships & Investment, Salford City Council

Sarah joined Salford City Council in 2004, pursuing a career in the public sector and undertaking a variety of roles. Sarah has extensive experience of developing, leading, and delivering public sector investment programmes and is responsible for planning, directing and delivering the Place Directorate’s overarching business strategy and performance plan, supporting the Executive Leadership team. Her role also encompasses strategic marketing and external relations to enhance Salford’s track record of partnership delivery.

Debra Cooper – Banking Partner, Hill Dickinson

Debra specialises in real estate finance, and her clients include a broad mix of institutional lenders, debt funders, alternative lenders and borrowers on investment and development transactions. She has worked on a number of Green and Sustainability linked Loans. In the past year, Debra has been lead real estate finance lawyer on transactions totalling over £1.5bn in debt, won Professional Advisor of the Year and Professional Services Leader. She is also chair of the Northern Investment Property Forum, is on the Northern LandAid board and was a trustee of We Love Manchester. Debra has two children and is a keen ultra runner.

Shannon Conway – Co-founder, Picture This

Shannon is a Chartered Surveyor and co-founder of purpose-led residential developer Picture This. Developments are age-inclusive, carbon-conscious and support neighbourhood values. The goal is to deliver ten Picture This communities in 10 years, with the first community of 250 apartments in design and planning stages. Shannon has worked in the urban residential sector for almost 20 years. Starting in estate agency, she rose to be a national director at JLL and in 2019 joined leading Build-to-Rent developer Glenbrook, helping design and fund a pipeline of 4,000+ homes. She sits on the national board of Women in Property, the board of her local Community Land Trust, and the GMCA’s Ageing, Housing & Planning working group. In 2022 she was named a Property Disruptor by North West Business Insider, and Residential Property Personality of the Year in 2023.

Mike Cunliffe – Work & Skills Lead, Manchester City Council

Mike oversees and supports delivery of the city’s Work and Skills Strategy, ensuring businesses are supported while connecting residents to employment opportunities created as a result of Manchester’s growth. That resident support is a key priority for the service and its partners, and is critical if Manchester is to achieve the Our Manchester Strategy objectives of becoming a ‘highly skilled city’ and a ‘fair and equitable city’. Prior to this role he spent four years in the Economic Regeneration team.

Susie Cuthill – Deputy Chief Executive, The Proud Trust

In January 2022 Susie became Deputy CEO at LGBT+ youth charity The Proud Trust after nine years with The Prince’s Trust. With over 16 years’ leadership experience in the charity and voluntary sector, Susie was a regional fundraising manager at the age of 20, relocated twice for a dream job and had a stint as an entrepreneur while on maternity leave. Susie’s drive to build excellent partnerships and teams – and her passion to make the world a better place for young people – has delivered hugely successful campaigns and initiatives that have transformed thousands of lives. Susie is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna.

Sherelle Fairweather – Digital Strategy Lead, Manchester City Council

Sherelle is responsible for implementing the ambitious citywide Digital Strategy, focused on the relationship between technology and socio-economics in place. Its goal is to make sure Manchester has digitally skilled residents, future-proof infrastructure, a thriving digital economy and is a sustainable, ethical, resilient city. Before that, she spent four years with the council’s Work & Skills team. Sherelle gets her energy from sharing ideas and taking action with others who believe collaboration and inclusion make long-lasting social change. A Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna, she is also chair of the Proper Job Theatre Company, a trustee of Community Arts North West, a Non-Executive Director of the Manchester Animation Festival and is working on her coaching certification.

Luke Green – Head of Capital, Design & Technical Services, Stockport Council

Luke is responsible for the delivery of Stockport’s capital programme across its built estate. He manages a pipeline of around 90 projects at any one time from inception through business case, design and delivery, with a combined value of over £100m. Luke joined Stockport in 2019, having worked as an architect and project lead on major projects throughout the UK. He uses his broad experience to ensure Council investment does not just deliver a built asset, but also offers maximum benefit to the residents of the locality it serves. Luke is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumnus.

Alyson Heald – Partnerships Director, L&Q

Alyson has worked in social housing for 20 years, joining the sector as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer in 2004 and proceeding to manage a wide cross section of teams including Business Intelligence, Transformation, Contact Centres, Information Technology and Policy and Research. In her current role, Aly represents L&Q in the North West, working with key stakeholders from a wide variety of sectors and businesses to ensure that the needs and ambitions of the communities and places L&Q work within are effectively listened to and understood, placing customers at the heart of decision making locally and nationally. Aly is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna and Alumni Network rep.

Ruth Jackson – Owner, RJP Town Planners

Ruth has worked in town planning and consents management for projects, including major infrastructure, for over 23 years. She has a strong track record in progressing planning and listed building consent applications, Transport and Works Act Orders and Development Consent Orders. Her strengths lie in working with environmental, engineering, project management and architectural teams to guide focus on front-loading options development, anticipating project opportunities and barriers, and managing sensitive negotiations, keeping a focus on the project goals.

Kathryn Jump – Partner, Shoosmiths

Kathryn co-leads the Shoosmiths National Planning Team and Living Sector. She joined the company in 2013, bringing 30 years of experience in planning and CPO work. Kathryn has led several complex regeneration schemes, residential developments, and town and city centre schemes. She is known for her ability to break complex issues into clear, concise communications. She is also a Legal Associate Member of the RTPI and sits on the National Diversity & Inclusion Working Group of the Compulsory Purchase Association.

Jenny Kay – Development Director, WSP

Jenny heads up the Housing & Viability team at WSP and has worked in the housing sector for almost 30 years. She is a passionate believer in the importance of safe and affordable housing and after managing then developing affordable housing for housing associations, she now advises housing associations, councils and developers on issues ranging from acquisitions & disposals, valuation, development consultancy, viability assessments and reviews, asset management and option appraisal advice on existing stock. She is a Chartered Surveyor and Registered Valuer. Jenny ran the graduate programme at GL Hearn (bought by WSP in Sept 2022) and still plays a large role in helping early careers professionals become qualified.

Chithra Marsh – Director, Buttress Architects

An experienced architect, Chithra works predominantly on Future High Street, Towns and Levelling Up-funded projects. She is committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion. At Buttress, she is responsible for coordinating and strengthening the practice’s social value and health & wellbeing initiatives, and champions cultural diversity. Chithra is also a strategic ambassador for social enterprise PLACED, National Chair for Women in Property, a North West representative on the RIBA National Council and co-chair of the RIBA North West’s Equality, Diversion & Inclusion Committee.

Bethan McCaw – Delivery Manager, GMCA

Over the past 14 years Bethan has worked in a range of housing and regeneration roles, including internationally at Vancouver City Council. She joined the GMCA in 2018, where she works in the Place Directorate supporting GM authorities to deliver their housing and growth ambitions. Her role includes managing investment through the Brownfield Housing Fund and Evergreen Surplus Fund and most recently, leading the coordination of the Growth Locations programme across GM. Prior to GMCA, Bethan worked for the Homes & Communities Agency as a Senior Manager. Bethan is also a member of the RTPI and a Prince2 Project Manager, and is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna.

Paul Richards – Chief Executive, Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation

Paul has been the CEO of Stockport MDC since its creation in 2019, leading on its strategic vision and delivery of high profile regeneration schemes, creating a new neighbourhood for the town. Since 2017, he has also been the Director of Development and Regeneration for Stockport Council responsible for its £1 billion transformation programme across retail, leisure, office, residential and light industrial reflecting the council’s direct interventionist approach to changing Stockport. Before that, he was the Property Director for Findel PLC, Homeform Group and Wine Cellar, roles which involves managing large occupational/investment portfolios and capital works programmes. Paul mentors on both Leaders Plus and Future Leaders and sits on Future of GM’s board and steering group.

Marion Room – Director, Fairhurst Design Group

Marion is an experienced architect with 20+ years’ experience in London and Manchester working on award-winning, large-scale commercial projects and masterplanning schemes, with a focus on sustainability, innovation and place-making. Marion has experience across a range of sectors, including Science & Research, Commercial/Workplace, Higher Education, Residential-led Mixed Use, Healthcare and buildings for Culture and the Arts. Marion advocates the use of BIM and has over 10 years’ experience working on REVIT-based projects in a lead consultant role.

Angeliki Stogia – Associate, Arup

Angeliki is a skilled communicator with highly developed political judgement and strong experience developing and delivering policy, programmes and complex projects that require significant attention to stakeholder engagement across a range of areas including environmental sustainability, climate change, transport, and infrastructure. Before joining Arup ,Angeliki was Executive Member for Environment, Planning & Transport at Manchester City Council, where she led Manchester’s campaign to become the first UK city to sign up to a science-based carbon budget to become zero carbon by 2038. Angeliki is passionate about building relationships and partnerships to support successful cities, address the climate crisis and tackle disadvantage and inequality. She is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna.

Ruth Welford – Assistant Director (Special Projects), Barnardo’s

Ruth has a 30-year career in the third sector, leading multi-agency teams and partnerships. Ruth has held regulated roles on Adoption Panels, Safeguarding Boards and Domestic Homicide Review Panels. She is a school governor and a trustee for the Co-op Academies Trust. Ruth is an alumnus of Common Purpose, GM Leaders Plus and a Leaders Plus working parents organisation Fellow. She is passionate about creating better conditions for all children. She is committed to anti-racist practice as a mother of a Black child and through years of service within diverse communities. Ruth is a Future of GM Leaders Plus alumna.

Follow this link to see the mentors from GM Leaders Plus, running March-January.