People: Ainscough Strategic Land; Leep Utilities; Tritax Symmetry; Northern Gritstone; Institute of Directors

David O'Reilly

Leigh-based Ainscough Strategic Land (ASL) has announced a new board level promotion amongst several changes to its senior management team.

David O’Reilly has been promoted from land director to managing director, with Rachael Ainscough becoming chief executive.

In addition, Jenny Brow has been promoted to senior planner following her acceptance as a full member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Rachael Ainscough said: “David’s promotion is well earned and will give him responsibility for the day to day running of the business and the delivery of each of our contracted land promotion agreements. This will give me room as chief executive to take more of a strategic role for the development of the business.

Jenny Brow

“We currently have six new sites in legals and we expect another six in that position before the year end, so it’s a very busy time. We want to continue on our growth trajectory and capitalise on what remains a strong market. These changes will help us to do just that.”

David O’Reilly said: “I joined ASL just under three years ago and the ASL business has achieved a great deal during that time. ASL is in a great place and I’m delighted to be promoted to oversee its continued success. The commitment and dedication of the team in the business is exemplary.”

Rachael Ainscough added: “Jenny has worked incredibly hard juggling work for her professional qualifications whilst delivering on a detailed workload and I’m delighted for her. We have a very strong team committed to our clients and ‘growing our own’ will help ensure longevity in relationships, which our clients value greatly.”

ASL recently completed its largest ever land transaction, selling a consented 2,500 home parcel of land at Lotmead Farm in Wiltshire to housebuilder Countryside and housing association Sovereign.


Last mile multi-utility network owner and operator, Leep Utilities has strengthened its team with the appointment of Brian Loft, as its new director of operations.

Brian joined the senior leadership team, with the responsibility for Stretford-based Leep’s project delivery, asset management and strategic projects teams.

Brian Loft

Previously, he was the director of operations at SSE Energy Solutions with responsibility for construction management teams across five business sectors, operation and maintenance services on private utility networks and a 24/7 customer services and contact centre providing billing and support services to more than 10,000 customers.

He has been in the project and operational service delivery sector for more than 30 years in both the utilities and telecommunications (private data networks) sectors.

Brian said: “I was attracted to Leep by their ‘straightforward connections’ mantra and the business model that supports it. I have been lucky enough to inherit a talented, strong and committed team that is supporting the accelerated growth that we are currently achieving as a company.”


Tritax Symmetry is continuing its recruitment drive with the appointment of Andrew Bain as the company’s new regional construction director.

A qualified project and programme manager with more than 25 years’ experience working within the property and construction industry, Andrew has held senior roles at Granite Turner, HIMOR, Kier, Crosby Homes and Reflect Developments.

Andrew Bain

Based in the Manchester office, Andrew will work with national construction director Kevin Theobold and regional construction director Ben Sanders, who joined the Northampton office last year, to oversee the delivery of Tritax Symmetry’s schemes across the North and Scotland.

Kevin Theobold, said: “Over the next 12 months we will be building out three million sq ft of logistics accommodation across the business to exact specifications, including delivering our buildings to net zero carbon in construction. This role is critical to the management of risk and the successful delivery of the development programme – Andrew is highly regarded in the industry as an expert in his field and is an excellent addition to the team.”

Andrew said: “I have worked with development teams across the public and private sector establishing delivery strategies and then implementing the design, procurement and construction of large scale logistics facilities. The opportunity to work with a developer with the funding firepower that Tritax Symmetry has was too good to miss and I look forward to working with the team and supply chains to provide outstanding facilities for our clients.”

Tritax Symmetry is the dedicated logistics developer of Tritax Big Box REIT.


Northern Gritstone, the new university spin-out investment business based in the North of England and chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill, has announced the appointment of Marion Bernard as chief investment officer.

Throughout her career Marion Bernard has focused on funding fast growing businesses in the UK. She joins Northern Gritstone from SME investor The Firmament Group, and prior to that led the Business Growth Fund’s activity in the South East of England.

Having begun her career at Barclays Bank, her experience also includes over half a decade at 3i Ventures as well as playing an instrumental role in founding Newcastle-based Northstar Ventures, where she was CEO between 2005 and 2011. At Northstar, Marion oversaw investments into hundreds of early stage, fast growth businesses.

Marion Bernard

At Northern Gritstone Marion’s role will be to oversee the day to day activity of the investment team, sourcing investment opportunities among the most exciting spin-outs from the universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. These opportunities are in some of the UK’s fastest growing sectors including advanced materials, energy, health technology and cognitive computation.

Led by chief executive Duncan Johnson, Northern Gritstone is currently working with its advisers, Lazard, to raise capital to establish an evergreen investment vehicle with a hard cap of £500m. A first close is anticipated to be held in quarter one 2022.

Duncan Johnson said: “Marion brings with her an exceptional track record of helping launch and grow businesses from start-up, through to growth stage and eventual exit. Marion is a perfect fit for both the Northern Gritstone business and its fast expanding team. I’m sure we will all enjoy working with Marion for many years to come.”

Marion Bernard said: “It is a privilege to become part of the Northern Gritstone team at this important stage of its impressive journey. The values of the business, along with its ability to deliver top quartile returns for shareholders match fully with my own aspirations and values.”

Lord O’Neill said: “To be focusing in on a first close so soon after retaining Lazard earlier in the year is testament to the quality of the Northern Gritstone ‘profit with purpose’ proposition. Our potential shareholders fully understand our ability to deliver impact beyond the attractive, immediate financial returns that we can generate.

“Northern Gritstone has the ability to invest in world leading science and innovation emanating from some of the highest ranking universities globally, allowing us to support the growth sectors and world class businesses of the future.”


The Institute of Directors has boosted its Manchester team with the appointment of Sarah Clarke.

Sarah Clarke

Sarah is a principal business psychologist, who has extensive experience leading cultural change initiatives across organisations and teams.

She joins the IoD Manchester leadership team as an ambassador. IoD ambassadors drive greater connectivity with members, support learning and development and give a local voice to the Institute, while ensuring that IoD national policy reflects local issues.

Sarah specialises in delivering innovative, science-based solutions to change behaviours, enhance productivity and reduce sickness costs.

She said: “My passion is working with SME directors who are looking to take the next step in their growth journey while remaining true to their organisation’s start-up culture. This exciting phase presents cultural and logistical challenges as businesses move towards their true potential. I can’t wait to support IoD members to ensure they stand at the forefront of the economic recovery.”

Debbie Francis, chair of IoD Manchester, said: “I warmly welcome Sarah to our fast growing Manchester team of knowledgeable and experienced business leaders, advisors and entrepreneurs.”