Meet our Speakers & Panelists

Fiona Brownfoot

Fiona Brownfoot

Director, Retail and Leisure Disposals and Acquisitions, Hicks Baker

Hicks Baker is the only practice in Reading to have a partner dedicated to the retail and leisure market; Fiona’s expertise is wide ranging, from disposals and acquisitions, to investment and development advice and rent reviews. In a previous business life Fiona has been a land buyer and worked for Berkshire County Council. Outside the office her interests are golf and retail therapy – lots of it!

Kevin Cook

Kevin Cook

Partner, Vail Williams

Kevin, Partner at Vail Williams,  specialises in the acquisition and disposal of commercial property, specifically within the Thames Valley market where he has built a strong corporate client base acting for Jacobs, Airspan Communications, Shoosmiths LLP, Reckitt Benckiser, Technogym UK Ltd, REL Field Marketing, Golder Associates, Segro, Verizon and Hutchison Three. Kevin has built a strong reputation for advising local authority clients, including Surrey County Council, the London Borough of Sutton, Bracknell Forest Council, Slough Borough Council and Wokingham Borough Council to name but a few. Kevin also acts for Surrey County Council where he specialises in providing strategic portfolio advice.

 

Chris Harty

Chris Harty

Professor of Technology and Organisation, University of Reading

Chris Harty is Professor of Technology and Organisation and Head of the School of the Built Environment at the University of Reading, UK. He has been the Director of the University’s EPSRC Health and Care Infrastructure Research and Innovation Centre (HaCIRIC) and has been principal / lead investigator on over £3.5 million of research projects funded by the EPSRC, TSB and IUK. He was Visiting Professor in the Department of Organisation at Copenhagen Business School from 2013 – 16 and is currently Visiting Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

Chris has conducted ethnographic studies of the development and use of collaborative information systems in complex organisations and undertaken video-ethnographic studies of the use of immersive VR technologies in design processes and in user-centred design, notably in health care settings. He has also worked in the area of future studies and forecasting. His personal research contributions are in the areas of understanding innovation in the built environment and organisational processes, applying socio-technical systems oriented approaches to organisations and projects, and the design, implementation and use of information systems and he has published widely in these areas.

Nigel Horton-Baker

Nigel Horton-Baker

Executive Director, Reading UK

Nigel has extensive senior management experience in Economic Development over the past 20 years and a career stretching back 25 years covering all aspects of regeneration, skills, job creation, foreign direct investment; small business and sector support services; tourism promotion and infrastructure development.

Nigel served on the Board of Reading UK for three years while he was the Area Director for the South East of England Regional Development Agency covering Berkshire and Surrey. Prior to this Nigel was CEO of Surrey Economic Partnership, Vice Chairman of the South East Regional Assembly and  Head of Community and Economic Regeneration at London Borough of Hounslow. He has also had spells of self employment running a B+B, and a planning and economic development consultancy.

Prior to joining Reading UK in 2012, Nigel worked with a global, City based Recruitment Agency to set up a commercial ‘Apprenticeship Training Agency’, supporting small companies to take on Apprentices across the South East”.

Victor Nicholls

Victor Nicholls

Visiting Fellow, School of Real Estate and Planning, Henley Business School, University of Reading & Director, Hadley Nicholls Ltd

A freelance consultant, Victor is a chartered town planner with 35 years’ experience in local authority regeneration and development. Previously Executive Director of Borough Development and Deputy Chief Executive at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, responsible for flagship projects worth £4bn. As Assistant Chief Executive at Bracknell Forest Council, Victor led the council’s team to masterplan and deliver the Lexicon, Bracknell, the first substantial regeneration of a post-war New Town centre in the UK. The scheme was an award-winning development and one of the largest construction projects in the country. As a member of the corporate leadership team, Victor provided strategic management for one of the six unitary authorities in Berkshire, offering the complete range of local government services.

Victor is a member of the Revo (formerly the British Council of Shopping Centres) Urban Development Committee, a judge on the Revo Purple Apple Awards and an Academician at the Academy of Urbanism. In 2017, he was invited to become a Visiting Fellow in the School of Real Estate and Planning, Henley Business School, University of Reading where he is involved in teaching and research.

 

Maria Sabey

Maria Sabey

Head of Property UK & Ireland, EMEIA Property and Shared Services HQ , Fujitsu

Maria has worked at Fujitsu for many years with responsibilities for real estate and other key services within the Fujitsu portfolio. She is currently involved with Andy Smith leading the BID process for the Southern Industrial Estate in Bracknell.

 

Andy Smith

Andy Smith

Partnership Head Officer Facilities, John Lewis Partnership

Chartered (MRICS) Property, Construction, Design & Maintenance FM professional. Experienced in international markets with strong operational leadership of multi sited functions, programme and project strategies. All delivered utilising; collaborative, coordinated op models to meet business objectives, strategic FM and construction deliverables. All set in the long term through outstanding service, effective cost management, procurement, revenue and capital planning. A strong work ethic, leading a team with passion, enthusiasm and customer focused objectives. He is currently involved with Maria Sabey and the BID process for the Southern Industrial Estate in Bracknell.

 

Tim Smith MBE

Tim Smith MBE

Chief Executive, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Ltd

Tim is the chief executive of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Ltd; one of 38 LEPs in England. His remit is to deliver a £182m investment programme that will generate an uplift of £700m GVA to Berkshire by 2021. This is being done through a range of initiatives, including a dedicated fund for high-growth SMEs, which has so far has made loan and equity investments into 50 SMEs, creating or safeguarding 585 jobs. The LEP’s capital funds – some £142m – are being invested in rail, road, housing, regeneration, skills and other infrastructure schemes. It also has responsibility for an investment strategy of £25m European funds, which has enabled £12.5m worth of skills initiatives and £5m for the new Thames Valley Science Park.

 

Sally Swift

Sally Swift

Director, TAR (Theatre Arts Reading)

Sally is the former Head of Communications at Reading Borough Council and local resident of Reading. She is passionate about the town and the need to create a cultural quarter within Reading which will generate continued growth in the arts & theatre sector.

 

Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas

Sky News Reporter and ex Blue Peter Presenter

Having applied for the job three times, Thomas began presenting the children’s programme Blue Peter on 8 January 1999 replacing the sacked presenter Richard Bacon. Previously he had worked as a runner at Children’s BBC and the radio station LBC. He also presented The Queen with a Gold Blue Peter Badge when she visited the studio and remarked on presenting Her Majesty with the badge that “she could get into the Tower of London free with it”. After leaving the BBC, Thomas joined  Sky Sports in June 2005 and presented the 15:00–19:00 shift on Sky Sports News. At the start of the 2010/2011 Football Season, Thomas became the lead presenter of Sky Sports’ live Football League coverage, leaving his position on Sky Sports News. From 2014, Thomas began presenting live League Cup football on Sky Sports, following Ben Shephard stepping down from all live match presenting duties. From August 2016, Thomas has presented live Premier League coverage, most notably on Saturday lunch times and bank holidays. Thomas regularly works alongside pundits such as Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp and Thierry Henry.

Tim Vaughan

Tim Vaughan

Chief Executive of Moorgarth Group

 Tim is Chief Executive of Moorgarth Group, with overall responsibility for the group’s UK businesses. 

Tim started Moorgarth’s UK business in October 2003, managing an existing real estate portfolio of 31 properties, and with funding to acquire new real estate assets. Since then, he’s grown the group’s portfolio from £8 million to just short of £300 million, and diversified operations by creating two new trading formats: our serviced office operation, The Boutique Workplace Company, and our asset-based lending business, Reward Capital. Most recently, Tim developed our property management business. Moorgarth has prided itself on its innovation, its ability to identify creative opportunities in the real estate market. In particular understanding and embracing change has embedded it to reposition its assets for the future. 

Before creating Moorgarth, Tim worked with Ernst & Young, and with Arthur Andersen, where he ran the regional real estate consulting practice. This involved advising on and completing property company acquisitions and disposals, general corporate sales where there was a real estate element, the asset management of property portfolios held through insolvency, and an advisory role in some inward investment strategies for companies and cities. 

Scott Witchalls

Scott Witchalls

Partner, Peter Brett Associates

Scott leads the management and delivery of area wide transport strategies and major land development projects both in the UK and overseas. Major mixed use projects include the Reading Station area renaissance project (3Msq.ft). Scott has also developed transport strategies and implementation plans for several major employment areas including Green Park and Thames Valley Park in Reading, and Slough Trading Estate. As a former Director of the Thames Valley Economic Partnership, Scott successfully lobbied Government for transport infrastructure investment in the Thames Valley. Scott regularly appears as an expert witness at regional, local planning and CPO inquiries including that for the £65M M4 Junction 11 project.

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