Meet our Speakers & Panelists

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.

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!

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. 

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.

 

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.

 

Rory Carson

Rory Carson

Vice President, Asset Management, Europe, Mapletree UK Management Limited

Responsible for the Asset Management of Green Park, the 195 acre business community in Reading, Rory joined Mapletree UK Management Limited in January 2017 from Oxford Properties. He has been directly involved in the Thames Valley office market for 16 years, as well as having been a student in the Thames Valley at both The University of Oxford and The University of Reading. Rory’s role is to ensure that Green Park delivers on its promise of being a destination where businesses will ‘Discover Better’. As such, he takes an overview of all aspects of the running of the 1.4m sq ft park – from strategy and masterplanning, through to customer service and events.

 

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.

 

Daniel Gierhart

Daniel Gierhart

Customer Experience Manager, Transport for London

Daniel has worked at Transport for London for 3.5 years covering a number of different positions across the business, including both operational and corporate roles. In his current role, Daniel is responsible for the overall Customer Experience of the Elizabeth line, including delivering TfL’s vision of world class service and ensuring the Elizabeth line is fully integrated with the wider TfL network.

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.

 

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.
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.

 

Cllr Tony Page

Cllr Tony Page

Deputy Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport

Councillor Tony Page has served on Reading Council as a Labour Councillor since 1973, without break. Since 2008 he has been Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council and Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport. Prior to that he was Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, and then Communities and Neighbourhoods. He was Chair of Reading Buses – one of 14 remaining Council-owned bus companies in the country – from 1986 until Christmas 2005.  From 1997 to 2012 he represented Reading on the Thames Valley Police Authority. Since the abolition of the TVPA he has been Reading’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel responsible for holding the Police and Crime Commissioner to account. He represents Reading on the South East England Councils and is Leader of the Labour Group and Vice Chairman of SEEC. He also represents Reading on South East Strategic Leaders representing all the counties and unitary authorities in the South East.

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