Meet the North Yorkshire Rural Commissioners

The North Yorkshire Rural Commission is made up of 8 commissioners.

The Very Reverend John Dobson DL was appointed Dean of Ripon in June 2014 following 25 years of ministry in the Diocese of Durham serving as a parish priest, Area Dean, Chair of the diocesan House of Clergy and member of The Board of Finance, Diocesan Synod and many other diocesan committees.  He has much experience in growing congregations, building developments, community engagement, and partnership working with all sectors. 

Dean John is delighted to be ministering in his native Yorkshire at a Cathedral that has been important to him since his childhood and which serves a vast rural area as well as the whole of West Yorkshire – all within the Diocese of Leeds. He serves on the Diocesan Board and the Bishop’s Strategy Group.

While at Ripon, he has led the Cathedral community in an envisioning process that has resulted in the strategy ‘Growing God’s Kingdom’.  This is shaping the growing and nurturing of the congregation, the development of the Cathedral as a centre of heritage, pilgrimage and tourism and the mission extended through the Cathedral to the people and communities of the region.  In 2018 the Cathedral created the Ripon Cathedral Rural Forum under the Dean’s chairmanship.

John is married to Nicola who is the head teacher of a North Yorkshire C of E aided primary school. They have two children who, as young graduates, are establishing their careers in London. John and Nicola are church bell ringers; they enjoy walking in the Yorkshire Dales, Scotland and the Alps – where they occasionally ski; frequently attend classical music concerts; and John has an interest in wine-tasting.

William Worsley is the Government’s National Tree Champion. He is Chairman of the National Forest Company and of Hovingham Estate.

He is a Lay Cannon of York Minster and a member of the Chapter and Cathedral Council. He is Chairman of the Howardian Hills AONB Joint Advisory Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Yorkshire Derwent Partnership. He is member of the North York Moors National Park Trust and a former member of the North York Moors National Park Authority. He is President elect of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and is a member of the Court of the Merchant Taylors Company in London and Chairman of their property committee.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and of the Royal Agricultural Societies. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and lives at Hovingham in North Yorkshire where he runs his family’s estate with its well-known Grade 1 listed family house.

He is a former President of the CLA, the Country Land and Business Association, the representative organisation of the rural economy, a former Chairman of the Scarborough Building Society and a former director of the Skipton Building Society, The Brunner Investment Trust plc and the Private Banking Board of Merchant Bank Guinness Mahon. He is also the former Honorary Colonel of the Yorkshire Squadron of the Queens Own Yeomanry.

He is passionate about forestry and his woods at Hovingham have won many awards for forestry and conservation. His other interests are art and architecture and he is a keen collector of pictures.

Professor Sally Shortall took up post as the Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy, Newcastle University in October 2016. She is interested in rural development policy and practice, the role of women on farms and in rural development, social changes in farming practice and the links between evidence and policy. She has published widely on these topics. Sally has carried out work on women in agriculture for the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Her current research considers rural proofing in Northern Ireland and women in agriculture in Scotland. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, set up a task force to implement the findings of the research on women in agriculture led by Sally. Sally has joined the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group.

Martin is an experienced community worker, project manager, trainer and social entrepreneur. He has worked for both local authorities, housing associations and also in the voluntary sector. Apart from two years volunteering in Rwanda, Martin has lived in the rural North Yorkshire Village of Hudswell for the past 16 years where he was instrumental in setting up Hudswell Community Pub Ltd. HCP owns the village pub and provides a village shop, allotments, an apiary, orchard and wood. He is also the secretary of Hudswell Community Charity, which manages six units of social housing in the village, three of which were constructed in 2017.

Prior to and alongside this work most of Martin’s regeneration and community work experience has been in urban settings, where he has managed community work teams, project evaluations, consultancy contracts and major regeneration projects in Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hartlepool. 

Martin currently works, on an occasional basis, for the Plunkett Foundation, advising on rural community enterprise and part time for Justice First Ltd, who support asylum seekers. 

Chris, with his wife Fiona, owns and manages 170 hectares at Nethergill Farm. They are currently building an eco-hill farm business with a sustainable added-value meat activity, an educational and field study facility and eco-tourism holiday lets. He is a Partner in Nethergill Associates, a business management consultancy currently assisting with the conjecturing and management of future farming uncertainties in the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale, North York Moors, the Lake District and Surrey.

A former farm tenant and farm manager, Chris now has thirty years of business management experience, many of which were managing his own businesses. Chris is a Member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Heather Hancock lives in the Yorkshire Dales, where she and her husband own and manage about 3,500 acres of uplands, including two tenanted farms and a tenanted pub. Heather is Chair of the (National) Agricultural Forum and former Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. She is also a Trustee of the Chatsworth Settlement Trust and chairs the Trustees and Group Board of Holker Group in Cumbria. She is a Vice President of Upper Wharfedale Agricultural Society.

Heather’s career began as a land agent, before she moved into senior roles in central and local government. In the late 1990s, Heather was Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and she subsequently took charge of the economic response to Foot and Mouth Disease in Yorkshire and the Humber when she was Executive Director at Yorkshire Forward. In 2003 Heather joined Deloitte as a partner in its Strategy Consulting Business. She was made a Managing Partner of Deloitte in the UK and Switzerland for 8 years, led the firm’s global services to the Olympic and Paralympic movements and was a member of Deloitte’s global leadership team. She retired from the partnership in 2014.

Heather spent over a decade as a Trustee of The Prince’s Trust, introducing its first programmes specifically aimed at young people in rural areas. She chaired the BBC’s Rural Affairs Committee from 2003-2010 and in 2014 she delivered an independent report to the BBC Trust on bias and impartiality in the BBC’s rural affairs coverage. Heather was appointed Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2012 New Year Honours and is a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire

Jean has been a working journalist and editor in North Yorkshire for more than 30 years, based for much of her career in the Harrogate district. She is now Editor-in-Chief for JPIMedia - Yorkshire's 18 weekly titles in the Harrogate and Scarborough districts in North Yorkshire and in Wakefield, Pontefract, Dewsbury, Halifax and across Calderdale in West Yorkshire. She is an Editorial Director on the JPIMedia Editorial Board.

Jean is from a farming background in North Yorkshire. She is a trustee of Saint Michael's Hospice and a Harrogate Ambassador.

Debbie is a scientist who held senior business roles in Teesside and then in the United States. She served as the CEO of a US-based, global electronic materials company. She travelled widely in Japan, China and Korea working with leading companies in the development of LED lighting technology, smart phones and automotive control systems. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

With husband Mike, she shares a passion for renewable energy. Their renovated 1850's house now runs on sustainable energy, and they helped to develop the community owned hydro-electric turbine near Whitby.

Debbie serves as a Director of Community Energy England and of the North York Moors National Park Trust. She is a lover of music and sings with the York Musical Society.