Group Board


Our Group is governed by a Board of Non-Executive Directors. They provide leadership, set the Group’s strategic direction and hold the Group CEO to account for the delivery of its objectives. Members are recruited and appointed on the basis of their skills, knowledge and experience ensuring that what they bring to KHT is relevant to the aims of the trust. The Board is made up of twelve non-executive directors:


Philip Raw FRICS, FBEng
Group Board Chair

Philip is a chartered surveyor, with strong Executive and Non-Executive experience in the profit, not for profit and charitable sectors within Care Quality Commission, Social Housing Regulator and Charities Commission regulatory framework experience.

Philip’s experience in the private sector bridges national, local, public and private housing work including development and legal court work.

An experienced Chairman, he has worked in successful partnership with CEO’s and Executive teams to deliver transformational change at scale, performance improvement and mergers and acquisitions.

Philip’s experience in the Registered Provider sector has been gained over 17 years as a chair and non-executive director during a period of significantly increasing demands on Governance and the regulatory control.


Tracey Johnson
Group Board Vice Chair

Tracey has an extensive and proven track record in strategic human resources, organisational development, IT, digital innovation, marketing and communications, governance and change management. She has worked across both private and third sector organisations.

As an Executive Director in Housing for 15 years, Tracey champions customer excellence and ensures that customers are at the centre of strategic decision making. Her strengths lie in people, digital transformation, governance, customer service and change.


Steve Agger

Steve is passionate about empowering people in communities and working in partnership to improve lives.

He has a wealth of experience establishing and managing high achieving teams and partnerships across the country in the local government, private (Saville’s) housing and third sector.


John Bowker

John, who lives in Stockport, has over 20 years of experience in the housing sector, having worked for a number of housing providers throughout the North West during this time. John is currently Director of Property and Maintenance Services at Stockport Homes Group and is responsible for the asset management of the Borough’s 11,500 homes. Before this, John held the same role at Liverpool Mutual Homes so has good knowledge and experience of Liverpool City Region.

John also brings with him previous Board experience having worked on a similar Board for the full 9 year term and he is very much looking forward to working with the Board and Executive Team at First Ark.


Kevin Brady

Kevin spent several years in the telecommunications industry before retraining and subsequently teaching in further, adult and community education. He subsequently held several senior management posts in local government prior to joining the Civil Service with the Department for Education and Skills. He moved to Government Office for the North West in 2002, holding several senior posts, including Partnership Director with several North West local authorities, prior to returning to local government with Salford City Council in 2006. Kevin retired from his Deputy Chief Executive role with Salford in 2012 and established a management consultancy company working with a range of public and private sector clients.

Kevin is a trustee with Salford Foundation Limited and Henshaws Society for the Blind, where he will take up the position of Chair of the Trustee Board in March 2019. Kevin was appointed as Independent Member to the Audit and Governance Committee of Transport for the North in 2018. He is also currently a member of Yorkshire Housing’s Risk and Assurance Committee. Kevin is a volunteer with the Royal Voluntary Service in his local community supporting vulnerable adults.


Anthony Deakin

Tony is currently (until his retirement in August) Group Director of Resources at Cartrefi Conwy – a large scale stock transfer housing association based in North Wales. He is responsible for the Finance, Performance Management, Governance, ICT, and Human Resources functions. He has over 25 years’ experience as a Director and senior manager in the social housing sector with both housing associations and local authorities.

Tony is Chair of the Finance & Governance Committee at Monmouthshire Housing Association and is a Board Member with Warrington Housing Association. He is also a member of CIPFA’s Housing Panel and Chair of Gwynedd Pension Board.


Mark Dunford

Mark is currently an Executive Director of Together Housing Group, one of the largest providers of social housing in the North. His main areas of responsibility are: Finance & Treasury, People & OD, ICT and Business Intelligence. Though a large part of his time is now spent working on the Group’s commercial activities, including: Development (JV’s & partnerships), PFI and Together Energy, as well as being an Executive Member of the Commercial Committee.

He has also been a Board Member (& Vice Chair) of New Charter Housing Group now Jigsaw Housing Group. His 9 year term as a Member finishes at the end of March 19. Over the term he has also sat on the Audit Committee and the Group’s Commercial Committee as well as a number of working groups, including the group which has oversight of the recent merger.

With over 15 years’ experience at Director level, as well as considerable experience as a Board Member he feels he can contribute to the overall strategic direction of First Ark and along with fellow Board Members & Executive help shape the its future over the coming years


Léann Hearne 

Léann was appointed as Group Chief Executive of First Ark Group in October 2018.

She began her career in sales and marketing in the engineering and construction sectors and became Managing Director of an international manufacturing business in 2000. Whilst there she took up a Non-Executive position in a housing association, with roles of Chair of Audit Committee, Chair of Governance committee, Board Chair and Group Vice-Chair. This led to a move to the sector, most recently for The Riverside Group as the Executive lead for the £100m turnover Care and Support business, followed by the Executive Director of Transformation and Shares Services with responsibility for collapsing the group structure and implementing a target operating model.


Phil Pemberton

Phil is a highly experienced housing professional with over 35 years sector experience, with over 17 years working at Director Level in both the public and private sector. Phil specialises in Property and Asset Management and is currently employed by The Riverside Group and is responsible for Strategic Asset Management and Delivery in respect of the group’s portfolio of over 58,000 properties.

Over the last nine years Phil has held a number of non-executive positions in housing, and also has extensive experience of chairing audit and risk committees. He also sits on a number of national bodies including the National Housing Maintenance Forum committee, and the Direct Works Forum steering group. Phil is also playing a key role in developing the national housing academy to support training and development in the sector.

Orange Line

John Ray

John is the Head of Commercial at Virgin Media, covering the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands. He is responsible for all cost and commercial aspects of the £90m p.a. network expansion programme across this area.

John has previously held Asset Management roles at Manchester Airport Group and was a management consultant in the Major Projects division of Ernst & Young. John is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor by profession. Outside of work John spends most of his time with his young family, and occasionally finds time to play the saxophone or go for a run.

Yellow line

Nicola Waterworth

Nicola is an experienced coach, facilitator and leader creating systems change through enabling people to be at their best. Nicola is working for the Centre for Ageing Better, based within the Greater Manchester Ageing Hub in the Combined Authority.

Her career has included local government policy and strategy, partnership working, service commissioning and programme management, predominantly in children and young people’s services working closely with adults’ services, housing, the NHS and police. Nicola has also co-founded a CIC working with a wide range of clients to design and deliver social justice projects, create gender-sensitive workplaces and policy, work well together and create personal transformation.

Nicola is co-author of ‘Women, Power & Politics: what’s changed in 100 years?’ for the British Council and a director of Find It Film, using film to explore the many diverse stories of women’s experience of sports and outdoor adventure.


Eleanor Bowden

Eleanor Bowden moved to the north west in 2015, and brings with her twelve years’ experience in purpose-led business. The past five of this has been gained through social impact investment and social innovation in housing, most recently at Legal & General Affordable Homes where Eleanor was Head of Social Impact & Innovation. Prior to this Eleanor was CEO and co-founder of a social impact investment firm raising investment capital to address the shortage of wheelchair accessible PRS homes in the UK. Here she built a strong network with the UK’s social impact investment industry and created partnership across housing, disability organisations, and government bodies.


Eleanor brings with her previous board experience through her role with Amber housing, the property subsidiary of *Heritage Care. She has been recognised with awards from Property Week, Estates Gazette, and Grant Thornton.


*NB, Heritage Care is changing its name to Ambient on 1st April 2020.