Greater Manchester Leaders Plus Candidates

GM Leaders Plus Round 5

Greater Manchester Leaders Plus Round 5 runs from March 2024 to January 2025. Profiles of the candidates are below.

Anna Bevington
Associate Planner, Arup

Anna is a chartered Town Planner with 10+ years experience at Arup UK and Australia. She worked in the North West for 5+ years and recently returned to Manchester after leading the Melbourne planning team for 3 years. Anna leads multi-disciplinary teams on complex masterplanning and major infrastructure projects and has played an integral role in the successful delivery of planning consents and impact assessments for several large-scale infrastructure projects. She has sat on Arup's Diversity & Inclusion and Wellness committees, and is passionate about inclusive placemaking.

Jemma Billing
Associate Director - Stockport Locality, NHS GM

Jemma has extensive healthcare experience at regional and local level. An experienced nurse, manager and leader, she trained as a nurse and worked in acute and community services before moving into commissioning in 2017. In recent years, Jemma has led on several successful large-scale system transformation programmes. She currently leads a locality and GM portfolio covering nursing, quality, safeguarding & continuing healthcare. Jemma is committed to improving the quality of patient care, reducing inequalities and providing strong leadership across the GM system.

Victoria Carr
Senior Manager - Markets Partners Place, Homes England

Victoria is a Planner (MRTPI) and Surveyor (MRICS) who manages regeneration and housing projects in Manchester on behalf of Homes England. Previous roles include Strategic Land Manager for Barratt David Wilson North West, development viability specialist for Cheshire West & Chester, Property Consultant at GVA Grimley and initially as an English Partnerships graduate. This has given Victoria cross-sector perspective which she uses to support GM in delivering regeneration and housing priorities.

James Collier
District Centres Programme Manager, Manchester City Council
James is a passionate urbanist with 15+ years of local and central government experience in regeneration and local government policy, strategy and delivery. After working in the civil service and at a number of councils in London, James relocated to Manchester in 2021. He now leads on MCC’s District Centres programme for the north of the city, working with partners across the public and private sector to deliver on the Council’s inclusive growth agenda in areas including Strangeways, Moston and Harpurhey.
Claire Connor
Associate Director - Communications & Engagement, NHS GM
Claire is an award-winning professional who has worked as a leader in public sector communications and involvement in Greater Manchester for nearly 20 years. She is passionate about patient and stakeholder engagement and is a qualified coach and mentor. Claire has also led staff working on equality, HR and Organisational Development, governance, emergency preparedness and social value – demonstrating her ability to apply general management skills across a wide portfolio.
Catherine Connors
Service Manager - Welfare Rights, Debt Advice & Fairer Charging Service, Salford City Council
Catherine leads an established team of expert welfare rights and debt advisers, and has 30 years' experience in local government focused on tackling poverty and inequality. Catherine started as a welfare rights practitioner then moved into a commissioning role, focused on a strategic approach to improving financial inclusion in Salford. She has a long-standing relationship with Salford University, working with academics in Social Policy and with the Salford Business School on a range of research projects.
Melanie Cook
Communications Business Partner, Manchester City Council

Melanie is a Communications Business Lead for the council's Growth & Development directorate and has 15+ years' public sector experience. She leads the communication of directorate priorities including affordable housing, regeneration, heritage, infrastructure and highways. A key part of her role is providing specialist comms support to Heads of Service and the wider organisation including reputation management. Having lived and worked in Manchester all her life, Melanie is fiercely proud of the city and her role has enabled her to work on groundbreaking projects that make a real difference to residents.

Stephanie Furness
Delivery Manager - Place Directorate, Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Steph has 15+ years experience in the public sector across the North, using her strategic and partnership skills to deliver complex regeneration schemes from establishing partnership vehicles to developing nationally recognised and innovative housing-led health models. Steph's work involves driving forward the Place agenda, economic development and transformational change through the Growth Locations programme. This involves working with Districts to support and unlock their pipelines and deploying funding, such as the Brownfield programme. Steph is passionate about delivering projects that create healthy environments for all stages of life. 

Robert Goulsbra
Head of Development & Regeneration, Stockport Council
Robert is a chartered development surveyor with 20 years experience across private and public sectors, professional consultancy, property company, developer and local authority. At Stockport he is responsible for development and regeneration projects with a focus on strategic town centre development schemes across all sectors.
Gary Leckenby
Senior Associate, Trowers & Hamlins
Gary is in the Real Estate Finance Security team at Trowers. He acts for funders, borrowers, and registered providers in all aspects of property charging and refinancing, including due diligence; preparing and negotiating certificates of title; and dealing with conditions precedent under loan agreements. His wide-ranging experience in secured lending extends to large-scale private and affordable housing portfolios, commercial property, and high-value residential transactions. Gary has been involved in diverse matters such as capital markets debt, Islamic finance, and taking security over real estate to secure pension liabilities.
Andrew Leigh
Head of Housing & Strategy, Salford City Council
Andrew has 25 years’ experience working in public sector housing with a focus on strategic housing and development. He recently led the successful registration of Salford’s local housing company as a Registered Provider and is a key player in Salford’s ambitious housing delivery programme. He has a collaborative approach to leadership and is used to working in partnership with a range of stakeholders to ensure the delivery of the Council’s strategic housing and homelessness priorities. He is driven by a strong sense of social justice and the role homes and place play in addressing inequality and providing opportunity.
Lucy Lovatt
Head - Markets Partners Place, Homes England

previous: Senior Manager - Markets, Partners, Place.

Lucy has 20+ years experience in housing and regeneration, primarily in Greater Manchester and more recently in a national role at Homes England. She is also a qualified career coach and provides ongoing coaching support. Her career focus includes strategy development, housing delivery and regeneration, giving her insight into the complex relationships behind the big picture and the detail required for successful project and programme delivery. Her current role spans regional delivery in the Midlands and development of Homes England's national place-based delivery approach.

Jo Moon
Project Manager - Special Projects, Barnardo's
Jo's Special Project team plans and delivers a variety of projects across the charity; the team is designed to be agile, deliver at pace and form relationships across departments to bring together the expertise required to successfully deliver at scale. Jo's background is in operational management, and having worked in the housing sector for many years, she has experience in operational delivery as well as strategic planning. She has centred her career on doing the right thing for the people her organisations serve and always tries to maintain integrity in her work. She lives in Manchester with her husband and two children.
Grace Pagani
Senior Engineer, Arup
Grace is a civil engineer with 10+ years experience delivering infrastructure projects from urban realm schemes for local authority clients to major highways projects for National Highways. Originally from Lancashire, Grace moved to Manchester in 2018 and has since taken on more complex projects with challenges such as developing procurement strategies and writing strategically focused business cases. Grace has a passion for creating sustainable solutions by building and leading collaborative teams. She is particularly driven by socially useful projects that are designed with the local community in mind.
Tony Shepherd
Assistant Director - Education & Early Years, Oldham Council
Tony has worked in education leadership across Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. Drawing on experience from schools, councils and the private sector, he has expertise in performance improvement and partnership working. His work has led to better pupil, school and borough outcomes, alongside successful partnership establishment, development and impact. Tony currently oversees a broad range of functions from music to attendance, and chairs the Greater Manchester school improvement group.
Nicola Waterworth
Strategic Lead - Ageing in Place, Greater Manchester Ageing Hub
Nicola works to understand systems and support people to create change, and in her current role, is committed to valuing the voices mid- and later-life people to improve outcomes in their neighbourhoods. Through her career in local authority policy, strategy and commissioning, social enterprise and gender equality, Nicola champions collaboration, co-production and social investment to tackle inequality. She is also an experienced coach, facilitator and advocate for the power of creativity in mobilising social action. Nicola is a Non-Executive Director at Livv Housing Group where she chairs the social investment committee.
Sophie Williams
Director – Built Environment, Gleeds
Sophie is an experienced Development Manager with a planning, urban design and regeneration background. She has 15 years’ experience across the public and private sectors, having started at Deloitte and worked at Cheshire East Council, Homes England and the GMCA. Sophie's team at Gleeds is focused on supporting a range of local authorities and public sector organisations across the North with unlocking and bringing forward challenging and complex built environment projects.

Follow this link to see the candidates for Leaders Plus Round 9, running in parallel in London.