Board members

The Board has 27 members, who are independent and do not represent any other organisation.

This comprises 13 local authority appointed members, six Parish Council elected members and eight Secretary of State appointed members. All Board members will have expressed an interest in becoming a Board member for the Chilterns Conservation Board.

  • Members appointed by the Secretary of State must go through a formal application and selection process and are appointed for a period of three years, which can be extended twice by another three years, nine years maximum.
  • Parish Council members are elected by the parish councils in their appropriate county within the Chilterns National Landscape: two Buckinghamshire, two Oxfordshire, one Hertfordshire and one Bedfordshire. They can remain Board members as long as they are parish council members and are willing to remain Board members.
  • Local Authorities in the Chilterns National Landscape appoint their members usually in May – some do it annually, and some appoint them for years. There are five for Buckinghamshire Council, and one each for Oxfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Central Bedford Council, Luton Borough Council, Dacorum Borough Council, North Hertfordshire District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Three Rivers District Council.

The Chilterns Conservation Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) have no formal influence over who is appointed or elected to the Board.

The CEO is responsible to the Board members of the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Meet the Board

Appointed by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Photo of a man with a grey beard wearing glasses.John Nicholls retired from a career in urban and rural planning and regeneration, having worked at director level in local authorities, government agencies and in public and private partnerships. He has been a trustee of various environmental and artistic charities, including the National Forest Charitable Trust, English Heritage’s advisory Urban Panel, and a producing theatre.

John is a sculptor in stone and is involved in various local arts groups. A previous resident of Sonning Common, he now lives in Caversham, Reading.

John was appointed Chair of the Chilterns Conservation Board in June 2024.

Register of Interests

Photo of a man in a blue suite sitting on a chair.Nominated by: Buckinghamshire Parish Councils

Sir Hector lives in the Hambleden valley and is the Vice Chair of the Turville Parish Council. He has lived in and around the Chilterns for 30 years.

He retired from executive work in 2013, since then he has held a number of non-executive roles; primarily in the public and charitable sector. His current principal role is Chair of the Oxford Diocese Board of Finance.

Prior to his current role he was Chair of the Money and Pensions Service, a government body responsible for promoting financial capability and help to those in financial difficulty.

Other previously held non-executive roles include Chair of StepChange, a national debt advice charity, Vice Chair of Oliver Wyman, a management consultant, and Chair of the UK wealth manager Julius Baer International.

Between 1977 and 2014 his executive career was in financial services and regulation, which included serving as the CEO of the Financial Services Authority and the European CEO of Credit Suisse.

Outside of financial services his work has included chairing the University of Oxford Said Business School and serving as a non-executive director for the NHS. He was educated at Clifton College and the University of Oxford.

Hector was appointed Deputy Chair of the Chilterns Conservation Board in June 2024.

Register of Interests

Appointed by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Colin is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He has extensive senior management and Board experience in leading UK and international infrastructure organisations. Prior to retirement, Colin held various senior managerial and director positions at Swedish international project development and construction group, Skanska. He has acted in various secondment and advisory roles with the government. He was a member of the government’s Green Construction Board and assisted with the development of the joint government / industry strategy for construction – Construction 2025.

He was appointed to the Board by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2016. He has a great love for hill walking, and the Chilterns has been his training ground for overseas treks in the Himalayas, the Andes and most recently Patagonia.

Colin was appointed Chair of the Chilterns Conservation Board in June 2023 and stepped down in June 2024.

Register of Interests

Appointed by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dr Gemma Harper OBE is Chief Executive of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – the UK’s statutory advisor on nature conservation and recovery. Prior to joining JNCC, Gemma was Deputy Director of Marine policy and Deputy Race Champion in Defra. She was awarded an OBE for services to the marine environment in the New Year Honours 2021. In March 2020, Gemma was temporarily promoted to director to co-lead Defra’s Food Vulnerability directorate, as part of the government’s COVID-19 response. She co-led the directorate to win the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion ‘Impact on the Citizen’ award.

From 2010 to 2017, Gemma was Defra’s Chief Social Scientist and, during this time, a member of the British Academy Public Policy Committee, the Social Research Association Strategy Group and the Government Social Research Leadership Board. In 2020, Gemma was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences for her contribution to social science.

Gemma was awarded the Defra Leadership Award twice, graduated from the Civil Service Senior Leaders Scheme, and is a University of Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy Fellow. Gemma recently completed the Leadership Centre’s Future Vision leadership programme.

In 2023, Gemma was appointed by Defra’s Secretary of State to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conservation Board. She is advisor to the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) and the UCL-led Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE). Gemma founded and co-chairs the Civil Service Network for Nature, whose mission is to connect civil and public servants to celebrate nature.

Register of interests to follow.

Appointed by: Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

After studying at both Leeds and Durham Universities Paul enjoyed two careers. Firstly, in the European transport industry, when he ran a High Wycombe based international company and during which time he served on a number of both national and local industry organisations.

He then made a career change becoming Chief Executive and subsequently Trustee of the River and Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, in which role he promoted several Thames and environment related education and outreach programmes. Paul was recognised in the 2014 Birthday Honours list for his ‘contribution to heritage education’.

Since retirement Paul has been active in several non-executive roles, including Chair of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust and a Trustee of the National Football Museum, Manchester. Currently, he is a member of the advisory board for the Museum of English Rural Life (University of Reading).

Paul has a particular interest in widening participation and exploring opportunities for more diverse communities to enjoy the Chilterns and all that they have to offer.

Paul has lived in the Chilterns all his life and in the Marlow area for the last 45 years. He still rows regularly and is a keen dog walker and orchardist.

Paul was appointed Chair of the Chilterns Conservation Board in April 2021 and stepped down in June 2023.

Register of Interests

Monochrome photo of a man with glasses in a suitAppointed by: Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Register of Interests


Nominated by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

John grew up in Tylers Green and has lived in Wycombe for most of his life. He loves his hometown, its community and local environment. John founded Chiltern Rangers in 2013, having often wanted to play a small part in improving the bigger picture in the Chilterns.

John has nearly 20 years of hands on experience managing the habitats of the Chilterns – chalk grasslands, chalk streams, and woodlands, in both urban and rural settings.

His passion is derived from connecting, inspiring and engaging people with place and removing any barriers to doing so.

John hopes to help the board be more inclusive: engaging everyone of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and making it as easy as possible for everyone to take part.

He looks forward to helping Paul, Elaine and the team (board, staff and volunteers) as they work with many partners to address the range of local, national and even existential challenges such as biodiversity and climate crises.

Away from work, John enjoys watching sport and spending time with his family. His daughter Holly (12) has Angelman Syndrome, a neurological disorder, and John says his lived experience as a parent of a child with a disability helps keep him focussed on ensuring the natural world is well looked after and accessible for all.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dr Geeta Ludhra lives in the Chilterns, after living in Slough, Hounslow and Nottinghamshire. She was raised within humble circumstances, as the daughter of first-generation South Asian parents who settled from India in the early 60s. Geeta’s heritage, education journey and research interests bring a unique lens as a Board Member. Geeta is passionately committed to diversity and representation in relation to natural landscapes as inclusive green spaces for all (Glover Review, 2019). She is keen to encourage new audiences to enjoy the beauty and charm of the Chilterns. Geeta runs a monthly walking group to encourage people to connect with nature for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Geeta works as a Lecturer in Education at Brunel University, where she teaches across Postgraduate programmes and engages in academic research– she is currently researching her book on ‘successful’ South Asian woman. Her background is rooted in primary school teaching and leadership, where she has worked across diverse London schools, specialising in English. Her working interests touch on women’s studies, social inclusion in education, anti-racism, and respectful ways of working with more ‘hard-to-reach’ communities.

As part of her community interests, Geeta runs a registered community enterprise, where she promotes intergenerational heritage cooking and storytelling, monthly nature walks and leads a women’s writing group.

Geeta has two grown-up daughters, and her relaxation interests include entertaining with heritage Indian cooking, watercolour painting (self-taught beginner), photography, nature walks and creative writing.

Geeta was appointed as a Chilterns Conservation Board Member in July 2021.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Joe Stewart is a Bid Writer at a specialist consultancy. He helps companies and charities from a wide range of sectors to tender for contracts with government departments, local authorities, and private clients. Joe has previously worked in the maritime sector as the Assistant Editor of a technical journal, and in children’s publishing.

Sitting on a Board is a new and exciting experience for Joe. He is a strong advocate for protected landscapes and local distinctiveness and is keen to bring a wider range of people to the Chilterns countryside.

Joe is a newcomer to the area, having moved to Reading in 2019. He has delighted in exploring the hills, forests, rivers and streams on his doorstep in the southern Chilterns and is gradually unearthing other areas of this special and diverse landscape.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Bedfordshire Parish Councils

John has been a Harlington Parish Councillor for some 40 years and chaired the council when Harlington became the first burial authority to introduce a new and badly needed cemetery within the severe restrictions imposed by the then NRA.

John frequently attended the training and planning workshop sessions organised for local councillors, as well as the sessions on restoration of waterways and other countryside matters, linking projects with local groups and businesses. He was part of a group that were instrumental in helping Harlington Parish Council buy the hilltop stand of woodland that echoes on a small scale Sharpenhoe Clappers on the far side of the valley, saving it from asset stripping of its trees.

John has always hoped his feedback at planning workshops has helped the CCB scrutinise development plans for those items not shown in applications, as well as evaluating those that are.

John says the Chilterns represent the epitome of the English countryside, and he has spent 40 years trying to keep his own village semi-rural; not an extension of an urban area such as Dunstable or Luton.

Now retired from a scientific career, first in fluoropolymer research and then in microparticle and cell technology – during which he became an “expert” in sub-clinical mastitis in cattle which introduced him to many in the farming community in the Chilterns, as well as internationally.

John and his wife moved to Harlington in 1973 and have lived there ever since. They have a daughter now living in a Northamptonshire village.

Register of Interests

Robert CaringtonNominated by: Buckinghamshire Council

Robert Carington represents Ridgeway West ward on Buckinghamshire Council. He sits on the Transport, Environment and Climate Change Committee, Audit and Governance Committee and the Standards and General Purposes Committee. He is a new member of the Council being first elected in May 2021. He joined the Board in June 2021.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Buckinghamshire Council

Richard Newcombe has lived in Buckinghamshire for 36 years. He represents Wendover, Halton and Stoke Mandeville Ward on Buckinghamshire Council, where he is Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee. He has been a local authority nominee on the Chilterns Conservation Board since he was first elected to Aylesbury Vale District Council in 2017.

Richard is a retired criminal lawyer whose career in the Crown Prosecution Service was mainly spent in Northwest London and the Thames and Chiltern Areas. This has given him a good knowledge of the whole of the AONB.

He is particularly interested in planning. He sits on two of the Buckinghamshire planning committees. In particular he is interested in using planning to defend the AONB against illegal, unnecessary and inappropriate development, whilst recognising that the Chilterns have to evolve over time, as they always have in the past.

As Vice Chair of the Wendover and Villages Community Board, he believes that by co-operating between them and local authorities, the Chilterns Conservation Board can do much to tackle and address issues such as biodiversity, climate change, economic prosperity and the pressures and opportunities of tourism.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Buckinghamshire Council

Nominated by: Buckinghamshire Council

Nominated by: Buckinghamshire Parish Councils

Charles has lived in Hambleden for 35 years but his family has lived in the parish for at least six generations. He has been a member of Hambleden Parish Council since May 2015 and was elected to the Board in January 2018.

He retired in 2012 after nearly 40 years on the scientific staff of the Natural History Museum in London; latterly in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, which was set up to promote Citizen Science. He has experience in managing projects in Biodiversity Informatics funded by the National Lottery Fund and European Union involving multiple international partners.

He has had a 12-year involvement with the National Biodiversity Network, through managing the master list of UK organisms, and served on its Policy Committee. This aspect of his work brought him into regular contact with government countryside and environment agencies, conservation organisations and wildlife groups.

Register of Interests

Appointed by: Central Bedfordshire Council

Nominated by: Dacorum Borough Council

Sally Symington has been a member of Dacorum Borough Council since 2019 and sits on the Finance and Resources Overview and Scrutiny and Audit Committees. She is also a current member of Hertfordshire County Council and a former Chair of Great Gaddesden Parish Council.

Living in the Chilterns National Landscape and representing communities located within it, Sally has significant experience of the benefits it brings to local residents and impact on local economies. She is keen to see the Chilterns Conservation Board take an active role in helping tackle climate change and promoting sustainability.

Sally has previously worked in the Financial Services industry and has degrees in physics and public policy.

Register of Interests

Board Member Paula HiscocksAppointed by: Hertfordshire County Council

After studying English and History at Reading, Paula worked for The British Council in Sweden for five years – where her appreciation for nature and wildlife was established.

Most of Paula’s career has been in Education, having taught English at Secondary schools in Brent and Hertfordshire and then moving to Hertfordshire Language and Curriculum Support Unit advising teachers. She also served as a school governor until last year.

Alongside this is her love of the Arts. Paula was instrumental in saving Rickmansworth’s Watersmeet Theatre, managing and chairing it as a Trust for two years and starting the successful Film Society.

She has also been a District Councillor for Three Rivers Council for 14 years; serving on the Environmental and Leisure Panel, as well as the Planning Committee amongst others. She was Chairman of the council in 2019 and Deputy Leader of her party.

At present, Paula is deputy Executive Member for Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council and sits on this and the Education and Libraries Panel.

Her love of the countryside and the importance of rights of way has always prevailed, and she spends a lot of her time in Somerset walking in The Quantocks and on Exmoor.

Register of Interests

adrian watney board member ccbNominated by: Hertfordshire Parish Councils

Adrian was born in Yorkshire but grew up in Sawbridgeworth in East Herts. He is married with three  grown-up children and three grandchildren. Part of his family were farmers in Essex, and other family members farmed in Ireland.  As a result, Adrian developed a strong bond with the countryside and farming, which persists to this day. He closely follows the debates concerning the future of farming.

Adrian has lived in Bovingdon for nearly 10 years, and now retired, he feels very much a part of the Chilterns community.

Adrian has been a parish councillor for Bovingdon Parish Council for over three years and has been particularly active on their planning committee. They are constantly battling to prevent encroachment on the green belt. He is also a member of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.

Adrian trained as a solicitor in London and then spent three years as a lawyer in Zambia, where he travelled extensively. His time in Africa helped to develop a strong interest in wildlife and the countryside. Following his time in Africa, he worked as a solicitor in Maidenhead where he dealt with a number of planning issues involving some major building projects, development of farmland, including encroachment into the greenbelt and, on occasion, the effect on AONBs.

At this time he was also the secretary of the Maidenhead chamber of commerce, and this helped him in dealing with, and understanding, the workings of committees.

Adrian believes his experiences and legal training have enabled him to develop good communication skills and an understanding of all sides of an argument, which has been has been useful in Parish council meetings.

He is passionate about protecting the countryside and in particular AONBs, and looks forward to being  a part of the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Register of Interests

Appointed by: Luton Borough Council

Robert was elected Councillor of the Limbury Ward in Luton Borough Council in 2019. In May 2021, he was appointed a Portfolio Holder with responsibilities for Highways, Parking Enforcement and Sustainable Development. Under Sustainable Development there are a number of areas in which he is responsible; Planning, Climate Change, Heritage and Conservation.

Robert has worked as a Probate Consultant with Co Op Legal Services, assisting families with the difficulties of a Legal Process and Taxation of an Estate, but now devotes his time to his Portfolio duties.

Robert was Chair of Governors at Meads Primary School in Luton for four years but stood down in 2021 to allow other Governors to lead the school. He remains a School Governor.

Register of interests

Nominated by: North Hertfordshire District Council

Nominated by: Oxfordshire County Council

David has been an Oxfordshire County Councillor since 2013 and most of the nine parishes he represents fall within the Chilterns Conservation Board area. He has always seen himself as a champion of these communities and makes no apologies for saying, that for him, political allegiances come second at a local level. David has always spoken out against those of an urban mindset who promote growth at all costs and do not understand the rural and village way of life.

For four years, between 2017 and 2021, David served as Cabinet Member for Finance. Now that his party is in Opposition, he has more time to devote to matters that he is passionate about away from the purely political; rural conservation is high on that list.

Prior to entering local politics, David spent 25 years running a successful communications company. One of his long-standing clients was Defra, which gave him extensive insight into rural affairs.

In his leisure time, David is a keen cyclist and has spent many hours cycling throughout the Chilterns and beyond.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Oxfordshire Parish Councils

John is a parish councillor in Crowmarsh, where the Chilterns meet the Thames. He is a geology graduate and works part-time for the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in their communications team. John is a cyclist and walker, with interests in rights of way, public access, planning and sustainability. He is a Chiltern Society local path representative, a member of Oxfordshire’s Countryside Access Forum, and represents the Board on the Ridgeway National Trail partnership board.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: Oxfordshire Parish Councils

Sue is a retired barrister who spent 30 years working as a corporate lawyer in the nuclear and pharmaceutical industries. Her last job was Director of International Legal Affairs for a major US multinational.

She was raised and educated in the Chilterns and developed an interest in the woodlands, wildlife and flora of the area from a very early age, inspired by her primary school headteacher and her love of the natural world. Sue has lived in South Oxfordshire for the last 40 years. She was a Parish Councillor for Kidmore End for several years until she moved to Kingswood. She joined Rotherfield Peppard Parish council in June 2017, where she is Chair of the planning committee.

Sue is a keen horse rider and walker and has a special interest in planning in the AONB and the conservation and preservation of its unique beauty. She lives on the Wyfold Estate within the AONB and is on the Estate Management Board with a role in managing the Estates woodland conservation and land maintenance.

Register of Interests

Nominated by: South Oxfordshire District Council

Nominated by: Three Rivers District Council

Louise is a councillor at Three Rivers District Council for the Chorleywood South and Maple Cross ward.

She is the Lead Member for Infrastructure and Economic Development at Three Rivers and is also a councillor at Chorleywood Parish Council.

Louise studied law at Cambridge University and then trained as a solicitor. She worked for a number of years both in private practice and in-house, and now teaches law on a freelance basis.

Louise lives on the edge of the Chilterns, near the River Chess. She loves hiking with her family; they particularly love the Chess Valley Walk.

Appointed by: Buckinghamshire Council

Board Member regulations

icon Code of Conduct

Members must abide by a Code of Conduct, which includes registering of any interests.

icon Members' Allowance Scheme

All members receive an allowance to cover their expenses in carrying out their duties.

icon Statutory Requirements and Code of Governance

The meetings and proceedings of the Board are subject to regulations.
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The Management Plan for the Chilterns National Landscape

The Management Plan sets out the policies and actions to be followed by all stakeholders to conserve and enhance this special place. The current Plan (“the Chilterns AONB Management Plan 2019-24”) has been extended to March 2025 and is currently under review.
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Board Meetings

Here you can find records from previous Board meetings and information about future ones.