Board members

The ACRE board is made up of voluntary directors whose role is to set out the charity’s strategic direction.

We are lucky to have a board with a range of skills and insight into rural communities that helps us make sure we deliver our charitable aims and objectives.

James Blake


James was elected Chair of ACRE in November 2022, following an external recruitment process.

Since 2017, James has been Chief Executive of the Youth Hostels Association – a leading national youth charity and social enterprise, with over 140 hostels across England and Wales, predominantly in rural communities.

James has had a lifelong interest in rural affairs. Following a degree and PhD in geography, where he specialised in environmental and rural policy, James had a senior level career in central and local government, most recently as Chief Executive of St Albans City and District Council from 2012-2017. Prior to that James was a senior civil servant in the Department for Communities and Local Government, where he worked in various policy roles on local government, regeneration and social inclusion.

James has held various non exec roles and is currently a Governor of the University of Hertfordshire and a trustee of a small local music charity.

Sue Dovey

Vice Chair

Sue was elected to the ACRE board in November 2018. She has 20 years experience of working with rural communities, including being the CEO of two ACRE members. She is supportive of and committed to the national work of ACRE and the local work of its members. Sue has been a trustee/director of local, regional and national not-for-profit organisations. She understands the requirements of good governance, based on the Nolan principles, and believes that good governance is vital for all organisations, but especially for those in the not-for-profit sector. Good governance, in turn, requires good team work, honest self-assessment and keeping up to date with strategic and regulatory requirements. As someone who ran a School for Social Entrepreneurs for eleven years, she encourages creative thinking and entrepreneurial ideas.

Gavin Parker

Vice Chair

Professor Gavin Parker is Chair of Planning Studies at the University of Reading. A chartered planner and fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences he has developed a strong track record in community planning and maintains a strong research interest in citizenship, participation and governance in land, planning and development. Gavin chaired the Community Council for Berkshire from 2006 to 2011. He was one of the three executive directors of the Royal Town Planning Institute between 2012-2014 and he has served on the board of the New Forest National Park Authority since 2017 and as Chair since 2020.

Ivan Annibal

Ivan was co-opted to the ACRE board in February 2017. He is Managing Director of Rose Regeneration, the company he developed 10 years ago following 20 years in public service in the East Midlands. During an extensive career working at a UK wide level, with a particular interest in rural and coastal settlements, he has created a number of ongoing legacies including the groundwork to develop both Urban Challenge, the CVS in Greater Lincoln, and the nationally focused Coastal Communities Alliance. Ivan writes ‘Hinterland’, a weekly review of key news items for the Rural Services Network, and organises their annual seminar programme. He is chair of trustees at Rural Community Action Nottinghamshire, a Senior Visiting Fellow at Lincoln International Business School and is on the Editorial Board of the Journal ‘Local Economy’. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Louise Beaton OBE

Louise was co-opted to the ACRE board in February 2017. She is an independent Community Buildings Consultant who has worked with the ACRE Network for over 40 years as a Community Buildings Adviser/consultant, latterly for Sussex, previously in Hampshire, as trustee for CDA Hertfordshire and Acting Director in Dorset. As ACRE’s Village Halls Adviser/consultant she led the successful campaign for 0% VAT on new halls, contributed to charity legislation, publications and research and helped establish Community Action Norfolk. Louise lives in West Sussex, where she is a member of the Aldingbourne Village Hall Trust and Community Land Trust. In 2021 Louise was awarded the OBE for services to rural communities.

Charles Coats

Charles was elected to the ACRE board in November 2017. He is from a farming background and retains an involvement in a family farming business. Charles has a BSC Hons Degree in Rural Estate Management from Reading University. He is a Fellow, recently retired, of the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) with over 42 years professional experience in the management of property, mainly in the public sector. He has been a parish councillor since 2014 and Chairman since June 2021 and has responsibility for coordinating planning related issues, including leading on the successful adoption of a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Charles is currently Chair of Gloucestershire Rural Community Council.

Jim Webster

Jim Webster was elected to the ACRE board in November 2018. He has lived and farmed in the far south of rural Cumbria all his life. In the 1970s he was involved in the voluntary management of the YHA, on regional and national councils. From the 1980s Jim has been heavily involved with the CLA, at county and national level. After FMD he was asked if he would act as the CLA’s National Livestock Adviser and as an NLA, he was a self-employed contractor for ten years dealing with Defra, FSA, RPA, and Trading Standards at all levels, on a very regular basis. He has represented the CLA at a county level in a number of areas: the local Police Liaison committee and the NW Flood Defence advisory committee, among others. After FMD he joined the Farm Crisis Network as a volunteer, taking on mainly casework, helping farmers cope with stress and mental health issues. Jim has a deep commitment to Rural people and became a trustee of ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, the ACRE Network member for Cumbria in 2014.

Garry Jones

Garry was elected to the ACRE board in November 2023. He has served as Chief Executive of Support Staffordshire since 2014. Previously he undertook the same role at York CVS, and before that spent 10 years in the nature conservation sector. Garry has an MA in Natural Sciences and a post-graduate qualification in Local Governance. He is also an NHS Trust Governor and Chair of Transforming the Trent Valley Landscape Partnership.

Sarah Morland

Sarah was co-opted to the ACRE board in February 2024. She is a trustee of Connecting Communities in Berkshire, having served as Chair for three years to January 2024. Sarah was Partnership Manager at Reading Voluntary Action until she retired in December 2019, sitting on various partnership boards to give a voice to voluntary organisations in strategic decision making. She has an MSc in Change Agent Skills and Strategies and worked for many years as an independent consultant in the VCS focussing on organisational change, collaborative working and strategic planning. She volunteers for a number of charities including Thrive, the therapeutic gardening charity.

Jane Colthup

Jane was co-opted to the ACRE Board in February 2024. She has been Chief Executive of Community First Yorkshire since June 2021. Previously Jane was a management consultant working with local authorities and before that worked in skills, training and recruitment. Her career has spanned public, private and not for profit sectors.