Lord Best

From 1970 to 1973, Best served as Director of the British Churches Housing Trust, then of the National Federation of Housing Associations 1973-88. From 1988 to December 2006, he led the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust. He has written extensively on housing and been involved with commissions on housing for Northern Ireland, Westminster, Birmingham, Glasgow and Hull.

Lord Best is Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications. He is also Chair of The Property Ombudsman and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People and served as Chair of the Hanover Housing Association 2006-2015. He was President of the Local Government Association 2007-2016, Commissioner of the Rural Development Commission 1989-98, Trustee and Treasurer of the Royal Society of Arts 2007-14, a member of the NCVO Advisory Council 2008-2016.

On 4 June 2001, Best was created a life peer as Baron Best, of Godmanstone in the County of Dorset. He sits as an independent crossbencher in the House of Lords.


Robert Grundy, Head of Housing, Housing Division

Savills housing division is unique in providing a wide range of complementary property, financial and management consultancy services across the housing, student and residential investment sectors.

Robert pioneered the loan security valuation techniques for voluntary transfers of local authority housing. He also conceived the royal institution of chartered surveyors’ (RICS) basis of valuation, existing use value: social housing (EUV:SH) which has gone on to become the principal basis of valuation for loan security valuations of housing association assets.

Robert is a member of the chartered institute of housing (CIH) governing board and is consulted by industry organisations including RICS, CIH, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Goverment, national housing federation, council of mortgage lenders and Homes England. He speaks frequently at housing sector conferences.

Colin Ainger, Partner
HTA Design LLP

Colin’s background is in project management and he is now one of four Project Directors at HTA. He joined the practice in 2001, became an Associate in 2003 and a member of the Main Board in 2008.

He has experience of leading teams to deliver a range of projects, from concept design to practical completion, for a variety of public and private sector client groups.

Colin and his team have gained particular experience in winning large-scale public-sector land and regeneration projects on behalf of his clients, from HCA sites such as the former Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Tower Hamlets and Campbell Park in Milton Keynes, to Local Authority estate regeneration opportunities like Kender Triangle in New Cross and South Acton in Ealing.

Through this experience, Colin and his team have gained considerable expertise in working with a variety of external stakeholders, from Planning Departments and the GLA to local residents and interest groups.

By successfully communicating ideas and proposals to planners, residents and members of the local community alike, the team develops the consensus necessary to ensure the successful delivery of each project, while maintaining a focus on meeting and exceeding client needs and expectations.

As well as leading HTA design teams for projects in the UK, he has also been employed as Project Manager for a 530 unit public housing scheme in Gibraltar.

Colin became a Partner in 2013 when HTA Architects Ltd became HTA Design LLP.

Rod Cahill, Interim Chief Executive Officer
Sage Housing

Rod became Interim Chief Executive Officer of Sage Housing in April 2019.   A well-known, respected and influential housing professional, Rod was Chief Executive of Catalyst Housing Group for over 26 years and oversaw the growth of the organisation from a 2,000-home west London housing association to a Group providing over 30,000 affordable homes, with a large development and regeneration programme.

During his time at Catalyst Rod was also Chair of Action West London and the Innisfree Housing Association, a Board Member of Amicus Horizon and Chair of the G15.
Mary Parsons, Group Director, Placemaking and Regeneration
Places for People

Mary has over 25 years’ experience in the development, construction and regeneration industry, working across the private, registered provider and consultancy sectors. She has been involved in some of the largest housing-led regeneration programmes in the UK and is repsonsible for the Group’s large-scale new places including joint ventures.

Previously, she worked in the private sector on large-scale mixed-tenure developments in the consultancy sector, specialising in public/private sector partnerships and housing market renewal. Mary is Trustee & Chair of the Town & Country Planning Association and Trustee of MOBIE an educational charity encouraging innovation in housing design and delivery. She joined Places for People in 2004, becoming group Director in 2010.

Ian McDermott, Chief Executive Officer
Catalyst Housing 

Ian McDermott has recently taken the role of Chief Executive at Catalyst Housing .

Ian served as  Chief Executive of Aldwyck Housing Group since October 2016. Before joining Aldwyck Ian was Chief Operating Officer at Sanctuary Group for five years.

Ian has more than three decades’ experience working in housing in London as well as nationally and was recently elected as the Chair of Build East, an alliance of the largest developing housing associations based across the East of England.

He previously held the role of Chief Executive at Shaftesbury Housing Group before it joined the Sanctuary Group, as well as at Riverhaven, and Stonebridge Housing Action Trust.

Shelagh Grant, Chief Executive
The Housing Forum

Shelagh Grant has been Chief Executive of The Housing Forum since 2006 and has built a reputation for advancing practical and collaborative solutions in housing construction and regeneration through a high quality member centred programme. Shelagh is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), served on the CIH Council as a National Representative for 6 years, and is an examiner for the CIH Experienced Professional Route.

Shelagh is also a member of the Editorial Panel for House Builder magazine, a judge for the Women in Housing Awards, and serves on the Construction Leadership Council’s Innovation Steering Group.

Shelagh’s earlier career included housing development, regeneration and management work for Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council, and Director of Housing and Community Services for Peterborough City Council. She holds a BA. (Hons) from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and MBA from Northumbria University.


John Lewis, Executive Director Thamesmead

John is leading one of London’s largest regeneration programmes at Thamesmead.

Previously John spent 6 years as CEO of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation. He joined the Foundation from Milton Keynes Partnership, a subsidiary of the Homes and Communities Agency, where he was CEO responsible for the economic and housing growth of the new city.

John is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and has a Master of Arts in Urban Regeneration. He is a voluntary Board member of Wellingborough Homes Housing Association.

Sophia De Sousa, Chief Executive
The Glass-House Community Led Design

Sophia joined The Glass-House as Chief Executive in 2005. She is an impassioned champion of design quality and enabler of design practices that empower people and organisations and that help communities thrive. She is also a leader in the field of research on community-led, participatory and co-design practices.  

Sophia plays an active role in designing and delivering our support to communities and practitioners, our events and in co-designing research, innovation and resources. She is also an active spokesperson and enabler for our mission, contributing regularly to external events, panels and advisory groups and to policy responses.

Sophia has lived and worked in the UK, US and Italy. Her background is in architecture and urbanism, education, community and voluntary sector work and in multiculturalism.