The LEP Chair and Board work to strengthen the LEP’s role as the main thought-leader influencing economic development in the HotSW area and deliver the area’s Local Industrial Strategy that aligns with the Government’s National Industrial Strategy.

The Board also oversees the LEP’s delivery programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects worth three-quarters of a billion pounds being delivered by 2025 in line with the Local Assurance Framework.

The LEP’s Board is made up of members who hold/have held senior leadership roles across our key sectors and/or have experience of running an SME and therefore understands the opportunities, challenges and infrastructure needed to make them prosper.

The Chair represents the LEP at key events and media opportunities in the HotSW area and at meetings in London with MPs, ministers and stakeholders. The Chair and non-executive directors will be required to attend board meetings once every two months and periodic meetings or events across the HotSW LEP area, related to their areas of expertise to support LEP activity.

Further information in relation to the responsibilities of the Chair and Board members can be found within the Articles of Association. The recruitment process for the Board is available here.

Board Membership

Board members receive no recompense for their work with the LEP, and private sector members are recruited through an open advertising and interview process to encourage a broad cross-section of candidates. Their contribution to the economic community is a valuable resource which is unique to the LEPs.

The private sector Board membership is balanced by representation from the Local Authorities in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, so giving democratic oversight to the Board and the LEP as a whole.

LEP Board


Karl Tucker

Executive Chairman, Yeo Valley Farms Production Ltd

Karl is the Executive Chairman of Yeo Valley Farms Production Ltd and has been with Yeo Valley since 1996 having joined from the Quarrying Industry and before that having served in the British Army.  Karl has been a key member of the leadership team that has seen Yeo Valley grow to be the UK’s largest organic food brand and one of the largest, independent, family owned dairy businesses in the UK.  Karl became Executive Chairman in February 2019 having been Managing Director since June 2017 and prior to that Joint MD from November 2013.  Prior to this Karl was the Finance, IT and Procurement Director since 2006.

As well as his role at Yeo Valley Karl sits on the SW CBI Council, is Chair of the SW CBI’s Food and Drink Council and a member of the Somerset Growth Board.

Karl is also a trustee of the Bridgwater Education Trust, a body aiming to raise the aspiration, motivation and attainment levels of the young people of Bridgwater in Somerset. For 11 years until November 2018 Karl was a trustee of ‘Young Bristol’, a charity that runs and supports a number of open access youth clubs and two outdoor based activity centres together with running a number of positive activity programmes for the young people in Bristol. Having left Young Bristol Karl has recently joined the board of trustees of ‘Feeding Bristol’, a charity working to eliminate food poverty and food insecurity in the city of Bristol and became a Governor of the Merchants Academy school in Bristol in October 2019.

Deputy Chair

Dr Fiona McMillan OBE

Non Executive Director EDF Energy New Build Gen Co Ltd

Fiona McMillan’s career background is in Education and Training. She was Principal of Bridgwater College for 18 years, during which time she led the College through Incorporation, merger with a neighbouring land-based college and considerable growth. The College was graded outstanding by Ofsted in 2003, and continued to enjoy that status through out the rest of her tenure as Principal.

In 2003 Fiona was awarded an OBE for services to Further Education.

Following her retirement, Fiona was invited to join the Board of EDF Energy’s Nuclear New Build GenCo, and she has served on the Board as a Non Executive Director since then. Her particular focus on the NNB Board is on skills and training, and people development, as well as on stakeholder engagement.

Since 2016 Fiona has been chairing the Somerset County Council’s Employment and Skills Steering Group, and is also now chairing the West Somerset Social Mobility Opportunities Area Partnership Board.

Board Members

David Bird

Regional Director, Santander Commercial and Corporate Banking

David Bird is the Regional Director for Santander Business Banking in the South West. He has over 30 years of experience in banking in many varied roles, including spells at Clydesdale Bank and Barclays. David built two banking businesses from scratch to full blown regional profit centres. He has delivered major projects with multi-million pound budgets through leading large teams in the banking industry.

As well as bringing his clear thinking, result driven skills to the LEP Board, David has strong links to social enterprise and acts as a mentor for a local Deputy Head teacher, as well as supporting the Exeter University Graduate programme. He is a former school governor and youth rugby coach.

David values collaboration and partnership as factors for success, and brings these values to the LEP Board which aims to develop its partnerships.

David is involved in a number of charities, roles in the education sector, and community projects. He is a trustee of The Exeter Foundation, the charity of the Exeter Chiefs supporting the local community. He enjoys family life, rugby, coaching, and reading.

David HallCouncillor David Hall

Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, Somerset County Council

Councillor David Hall is the County Councillor for the electoral division of Bridgwater East and Bawdrip.

David trained and worked as an accountant in both the manufacturing and retail business sectors. His career evolved within the software industry where he first worked as a business systems project manager, before moving on to business development and commercial relationships management. He now runs his own consultancy business and is a partner in a local property company.

Councillor Hall’s current portfolio includes: Cabinet Member, Business Inward Investment and Policy at Somerset County Council, with service responsibilities for Corporate Policy, the Business and Economy Group, New Nuclear Development, Road Safety, the Heritage Service, Scientific Services, Regulation, the Registration Service, Libraries and Minerals and Waste.

Judith PettsJudith Petts

Vice-Chancellor, University of Plymouth

Professor Judith Petts was appointed the University of Plymouth’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive in February 2016. She joined Plymouth from the University of Southampton where she had been Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise and previously the inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (2010-13). Prior to this she had spent 12 years at the University of Birmingham as a Head of School and finally as Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Transfer (2007-10).
Over some 30 years, her research has particularly examined the interface between science and policy-making, and the effective use of evidence in decision-making. Currently she is a member of the Council of BBSRC and of NERC’s Innovation Board. Previous appointments include as a member of the Science Advisory Council of Defra (2011-16); Royal Commission on Environmental of Pollution (2006-11), the Council of NERC (2000-6), of EPSRC’s Societal Issues Panel and Strategic Advisory Network, the Royal Society’s Science in Society Consultative Committee, and the Advisory Board of Veolia Environmental Services.
She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year Honours, 2012, for services to Scientific Research.

John Laramy

Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College

John Laramy is Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College, an Ofsted Outstanding, Award Winning Tertiary College with a turnover of £40m. Exeter College has circa 11,800 students and 1080 staff and has been named as one of The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Not-For Profit Organisations to work for in 2019.

John was appointed as Principal and CEO at the beginning of 2016. Prior to this, he was Vice Principal. In total, John has been at Exeter College for over ten years. John completed his Postgraduate Certificate of Education in Post-Compulsory Education in 1996. He proceeded to join what was then called North Devon College in 1997 as a Lecturer, progressing through various roles before joining the Senior Leadership Team in 2004. John has a track record of quality improvement, having spoken nationally on both quality improvement and technical education.

John was a founding director of the Ted Wragg Multi-Academy Trust and remains a member of this well regarded and successful Schools Trust. He was also a founding Chair of the Exeter Specialist Mathematics School, working nationally with the DfE and Baroness Alison Wolf to establish the key ingredients of ‘Maths Schools’. John remains a member of the Exeter Mathematics School, but stepped away from the Board after it was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in its very first inspection. Both the Ted Wragg Trust and the Exeter Mathematics Schools are highly successful partnerships between the University of Exeter and Exeter College.

In 2018, John became a Non-Executive Director of Pearson Education Limited. John sits on a national steering group for executive education in Further Education, a collaborative between the Education & Training Foundation and the Oxford Said Business School. John is interested in the interface between business and education and, therefore, is very much looking forward to supporting this endeavour as a Director of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

John holds a BSc (Hons) in Construction Management from the University of the West of England and an MSc in Educational Leadership from the University of Leicester. He is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Building.

Sarah Cook

Vice President Uk Government Business – Leonardo Helicopters

Sarah has worked for Leonardo Helicopters for 25 years, and took up her current role as Vice President UK Government Business in January 2019. Her previous position was as Managing Director Aviation Training International Limited – a joint venture company – which she held for 10 years, prior to which she was UK HR Director for Leonardo Helicopters UK.

Sarah is passionate about the South West, and keen to support the growth potential of its people and businesses whilst protecting the environment and countryside.

Sarah is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers. She is married and lives in Dorset. Her hobbies and interests include walking, travel, watching sport, supporting wildlife charities and enjoying local fine food and wine!

Mel Squires

South West Regional Director, NFU

Melanie Squires comes from a Cornish dairy farming family and has lived in Devon for the last 18 years. She joined the NFU South West team in January 2002 as a policy adviser, promoted to senior in 2003 and then to Regional Director in March 2006.

She is a 2:1 honours degree graduate in Agriculture from the Seale-Hayne faculty of Plymouth University (1997-2000) and prior to this obtained a National Certificate in Agriculture from the Duchy College (1992) in Cornwall. She undertook the Worshipful Company of Farmers’ Challenge of Rural Leadership course in November 2005 and subsequently made a liveryman of the Company.

She has held the following posts:

  • A Director for SW Chamber of Rural Enterprise (SW CoRE) 2006-2014,
  • A member of SW Food and Drink Board (2006-2011),
  • SW Sustainable Farming and Food Board (2006-2011),
  • A past member of the Forestry Commission regional advisory group,
  • A SWRDA rural advisory group member.
  • A Vice-President of Cornwall Federation of Young Farmers in 2006-2009.
  • Duchy/Cornwall College Council member

She is a current trustee to the Seale-Hayne Education Trust and incoming 2016 Chairman, oversees the administration of the Dairy Crest/NFU Scholarship

(West country Dairy Awards) and a SW CBI Council member.

In June of 2008 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to Gloucestershire’s rural community and for animal welfare efforts during the flooding of July 2007. She was also awarded the Associateship of Royal Agricultural Societies (ARAgS) for her distinguished achievement in the agricultural industry in 2015.

Prior to joining the NFU, she was assistant agricultural co-ordinator with the Cornwall Agricultural Council for Objective One and has also worked full-time as a dairy herdsperson for several years prior to her time at Seale Hayne. A long held passion for farming and food means she is committed to the furtherance of agriculture in all its diverse facets for a sustainable future, both in terms of output, as well as for its custodians, and the next generation. The NFU is a trade association and her role combines representing a farming membership of circa 10,000 farming businesses across the six counties of the south west with a fantastic regional and field based team of 90 staff, in 43 offices. She therefore manages this private sector business across the region as well as ensuring representation at all levels with lobbying/influencing as an A-political organisation, supporting the governance structures and elected farming officeholders.

Professor Lisa Roberts

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Lisa Roberts took up her post on 1 September 2020. Prior to this, Professor Roberts was Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds where she led on the development of the University’s research and innovation strategy. During this time she led significant increases in the income, quality and impact of research at Leeds. She also led a major step change in how the University worked with business, from start-ups to large corporates; launching a new innovation hub and leading a city-wide team of senior city stakeholders through the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP). Before joining Leeds, Lisa was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey, leading the Schools of Bioscience and Medicine, Psychology and Health Sciences. During this time she also developed and launched only the 8th School of Veterinary Medicine in the UK and developed a successful One Health Strategy with external partnerships being key to its success.

Professor Roberts is a Professor of Virology, having studied for her PhD at the BBSRC Institute for Animal Health (now the Pirbright Institute) and the University of Kent. Earlier in her career, she worked as a Product Development Manager for Procter and Gamble in the UK and Belgium.

In addition to being a Board member of the LEP, she is a Board member of the Russell Group and Chair of the GW4 Council.

Phil Bialyk


Cllr Phil Bialyk is the Labour Leader of Exeter City Council.

First elected to the Council in 2011, he serves as a ward councillor for Exwick. Before being elected leader in May 2019, Cllr Bialyk was Lead Councillor for Health and Wellbeing, Communities & Sport, with responsibility for delivering the UK’s first Passivhaus leisure centre in the city centre, and a new Exeter Bus Station.

Born and raised in Exeter, Cllr Bialyk is a former bus conductor and bus driver. Recently retired, he was for many years a Regional Organiser for the RMT union.

As Council Leader, his main areas of responsibility are:

  • Corporate Vision and Strategy
  • Liveable Exeter Transformational Housing Programme
  • Partnerships and the sub-regional growth agenda including Local Industrial Strategy
  • Strategic finance
  • Organisational Development & Human Resources
  • Internal change of Council operations
  • Performance framework
  • Strategic communication
  • Exeter City Living (Development Company)
  • Commercial & property assets (includes redevelopment of Paris Street/Sidwell Street, Exeter City Centre)

Cllr Bialyk is a registered football referee with the Devon FA.

Richard Stevens

Managing Director, Plymouth Citybus

HotSW LEP SME Champion

Richard Stevens is the current chair of the Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce; a role Richard is delighted and honoured to perform. Richard has embraced the role and enthusiastically committed his time and energy to promote the Chamber. Engaging with Stakeholders, Richard is the Chair of the Business Leadership Group for the HotSW LEP, Deputy Chair of the LEP Strategic Investment Panel and Deputy Chair of the Local Transport Board.

Richard’s career is in public transport, Richard was appointed as Managing Director of Plymouth Citybus in May 2012. With a turnover in excess of 27 million pounds, Citybus serves over 17 million passengers a year and is the biggest public transport provider in Plymouth and East Cornwall, employing 550 people and running a fleet of 185 buses to all corners of the city. Richard has more than twenty years’ senior management experience of working in the bus industry in the South West of the UK. Previously Richard served as an Operations & Commercial Director for Stagecoach South West and was Operations Director for First Devon and Cornwall; prior to that he held a number of managerial roles, having begun his transport career in 1990 as a bus driver. Richard is particularly proud of Plymouth Citybus attainment of ‘Gold’ Investors in People Accreditation; Richard is passionate about people, he ensures his team live in an empowered responsibility focused culture, where people are treated with unconditional positive regard. Richard believes that Citybus has a duty to be a good community partner and encourages all employees to do their bit, the staff at Citybus assist many voluntary and charitable organisations across the city.

Richard is the current Joint Chair of the Plymouth Area Business Council, Chair of the Plymouth Growth Board, Chair of the Marine Tech Expo; Richard sits on the Devonport Task Force, One Plymouth, the Mayflower 400 Leadership group and the Peninsular Rail Task Force board and Chair of the PRTF Stakeholder Group. Richard is also a Director of Destination Plymouth; the destination management company; he is committed to working with all strategic partners, to ensure that the voice of business in Plymouth and the region is strong, unified and playing to its collective strengths.

Richard was awarded an Honorary Degree as a Master Business Administrator (MBA) by Marjon University in October 2018.

In his spare time; Richard is Chair of Governors for All Saints Academy, Secondary School. Having relocated his family to Plymouth, Richard is a member of Saltash sailing club, enabling him to indulge in his other passion; sailing.

Portrait of Rufus GilbertRufus Gilbert


I am elected as a County Councillor for the electoral division of Salcombe. I intend to serve the interests of all residents, regardless of political persuasion.

I became a Councillor out of a sense of duty and in the belief I have something to offer. I wholly believe in Public Service for the benefit of all.

My priorities are to serve my community wherever possible to the best of my ability.

During the 1970’s I spent my working life setting up oil exploration contracts globally, before coming to live in the South Hams in 1983.  Since 1983 my wife and I have started and run various tourist related businesses, one of which we still own. I am still active within the local business community, alongside maintaining and letting various properties we own locally.

Steve Darling


Steve has been the Leader of Torbay Council since May 2019. He is also the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Torbay Council and has been a local councillor since 1995.

He grew up in Torquay and has raised his family there. He also worked as a caseworker for 18 years for Adrian Sanders, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, which gave him a great outlook on some of the challenges that the communities in Torbay face.

His key priorities include tackling poverty, empowering and engaging with local communities, putting the environment at the heart of the Council’s decision-making and dealing with the high levels of looked after children in Torbay.

As part of his role on Torbay Council, Steve attends:
• Cabinet Committee
• Community Governance Review Working Party
• Corporate Parenting Board
• Council Employment Committee
• The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Joint Scrutiny Committee.
• Priorities and Resources Review Panel.

He also sits on numerous outside bodies, which include:
• Community safety Partnership Board
• Heart of the South West Steering Group (LEP)
• Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group (SIG)
• Local Government Association General Assembly
• Local Government Association Unitary Councils network
• South West Councils
• Virtual School Governing body

Stuart Brocklehurst

Chief Executive, Applegate

Stuart is Chief Executive of Applegate, a leading eProcurement marketplace headquartered in Barnstaple and Plymouth. Applegate works with governments and businesses across the world, is a Strategic Partner to the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration and a Knowledge Partner of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.

He started his career in banking, serving as Head of E-Commerce Strategy at Barclays and later as Senior Vice President and Head of Digital Commerce at Visa International CEMEA. Under contract from the US Treasury he established the initial national payments infrastructure in Iraq following the 2003 war. In 2010, Stuart moved to Madrid to support the Initial Public Offering of Amadeus IT Group. Following the successful conclusion of the flotation, he was appointed Group Communications Director.

Stuart has served as a non-executive director on the boards of several companies, mainly in the technology sector, and as chairman of a venture capital trust. He has provided pro bono support to several charities including the Charities Aid Foundation West Africa, the Diocese of Exeter and Pilton House Trust and is a Governor of Petroc College.

Tudor Evans


Tudor is the Leader of Plymouth City Council and in his 31st year of continuous service to the Ham ward as a Labour & Co-operative Councillor. He has been the Leader of the Plymouth Labour Group since May 1998.

Tudor was born in Ebbw Vale, South Wales and is an Environmental Science graduate having arrived in the city in 1977 to read environmental science at Plymouth Polytechnic – now Plymouth University. He was a director of a co-operative printing company for 11 years and is currently working as a local government consultant. His partner Jane works for First Group in London and Plymouth and he has two step-daughters, and is Bampy to Issac.

Tudor was awarded the Oder of the British Empire for political service and services to local government in the New Year’s Honours list in 2016. He is a member of the GMB trade union and the Co-operative Party.

Tudor is a member of the One Plymouth Group of City leaders and the Devonport Task Group. He is a Director of Plymouth Science Park Ltd also serving on the Plymouth Growth Board, Destination Plymouth Board and City Council Investment Board. He represents Plymouth city Council on the Heart of the South West Community Interest Company, the Plymouth Investment Partnership and South West Councils.
Tudor is a member of the Local Government Association’s Councillors Forum and Innovation and Improvement Board. Tudor has previously served as the LGA’s Regional Lead Peer and has worked with a number of Councils on peer reviews. He is also a mentor to other Local Authority Leaders.

Tudor led the council from 1998-2000, then 2003-2007 and again in 2013-16; he was leader of the opposition from 2000 to 2003 and 2007-2012 and from 2016 – 2018.Tudor has been a member of many organisations in local, regional and national council affairs since being elected in 1988, including:

  • Devon & Cornwall Development International
  • SW Regional Assembly
  • SW Regional Development Agency
  • Plymouth Development Corporation
  • Devon & Cornwall Police Authority
  • SW Local Government Association
  • Urban Commission (and Steering Group)

Val Keitch


Grew up in a South Somerset and returned after University for a few years.

Had a career in Hotel and Management mainly with local authorities. Changes in funding and provision caused a rethink.

Went back to University and studied Psychology with Probation studies. Joined Surrey Probation Service and held various management roles prior to transferring across to the Prison Service. Worked in a variety of establishments. Final posting was with HQ to write the National Strategy for Women leaving custody.

Retired home to South Somerset, set up and managed the award winning Community Justice Panel using Restorative Practices as the model. Elected to SSDC in 2015.

Interests outside of SSDC:

Yeovil Town Football Club
Somerset County Cricket
Family History Research

In Attendance

David RalphDavid Ralph

Chief Executive, Heart of the South West LEP

David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.

Declarations of interest

To view a record of the declarations of interest for the LEP Board, please use this LINK to be redirected to the central location for all declarations of interest.