Who are we?
We are the Independent Challenge Group for NWL and cover its two operating areas, Northumbrian Water (NW) and Essex & Suffolk Water (ESW).

We are a fiercely independent and balanced blend of industry regulators, subject experts and independent members who have wholeheartedly risen to the job at hand.


Our job isn’t to run the company or to make decisions (that’s for the Board and the Executive Leadership Team to do); it’s to champion on behalf of customers and challenge the company to understand the impact of decisions before they’re taken. Our challenges are always from a very early starting point - we challenge the company during business planning and as it delivers its plans.

Melanie Laws - Independent Member and Chair

As an independent member, I bring with me many years’ experience of working in local government, both with the business sector and on behalf of the communities that local authorities serve. I am a former Chief Executive with the Association of North East Councils, which represented local government across this region. I have also worked with national government, a range of regulatory bodies, and the voluntary and community sector (VCS).


This experience has helped me develop a deep and broad understanding of the economic, social and environmental issues affecting the North East and the country as a whole.


By taking part in the Water Forum, I aim to provide useful challenge on a range of issues impacting on NWG’s plans and policies. As well as chairing this customer challenge group (CCG), I am a member of member of the Northern Gas Networks National CEG – this gives me a wonderful opportunity to infuse good practice into both forums.

Mary Coyle MBE DL, Independent Member

I have a genuine interest in absolutely everything that impacts the society we live in, which has led me to get involved the Water Forums since 2010, as well as many different community organisations. At the moment I’m a trustee of several local and regional charities, a non-Exec Director of Gentoo (a Sunderland-based housing association), the Lay Chair of the North Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Chair of Shared Interest and a Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne & Wear.


My 30 years’ community and voluntary sector experience in the North East mean I’m well-networked in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and I find opportunities to bring the three together so they can learn from each other and innovate.


I believe that the value I bring to the Forum’s work is my broad experience and my naturally curious nature – together, these permit me to ask the ‘have you thought about...’ questions from a different perspective to some of my colleagues, so that together we offer a well-rounded challenge to NWG. I particularly challenge from the point of view of customers who have a limited income or who perhaps struggle to engage with the company due to ill-health or learning disabilities; I also think about what NWG’s plans mean for sustainable water supplies, flooding and water quality – all of which directly affect customers. 

James Copeland - Vice Chair and Independent Member

As an NFU member I give the Forum a national farming perspective and I believe that my current role and my network of contacts means I can provide useful challenge to NWG’s plans and strategies, in particular contributing an agricultural perspective to the environmental debates.

Lesley Crisp, Independent Member

One of the twin aspects of Citizen’s Advice work is to research and campaign on big issues where vulnerable people need their voices to be heard. As the Chief Officer in Havering, Essex, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to challenge Northumbrian Water Group about its plans that will impact its customers. I offer a perspective that is based on what I hear from our clients here at Citizen’s Advice and from my network of contacts in volunteer organisations and local authorities. I’ve built this network up over the years, working and volunteering in jobs such as benefit assessment, a local hospital information service and an adult literacy scheme.


Through my work with the Forums, Essex & Suffolk Water have visited my team to explain what the company can do to help our clients, who come from a very diverse community in terms of their needs. It’s this diversity that I’m very keen to make sure the company understand, so that their needs are represented in its decision-making. 

Iain Dunnett, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership

Iain is the lead for the Green Economy and the Growing Places Fund with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. In this role he supports the development of a sustainable and commercial future that benefits the many businesses that operate in this dynamic new area of the economy; he also manages other business and funding development opportunities with a wide range of businesses and organisations.


Previously he developed a Low Carbon Development Unit at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and managed production of the Green Economy Pathfinder and Manifesto on behalf of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. This built upon his experience of raising and managing the aspiration and partnership of Creating the Greenest County in Suffolk. Previous to this he enjoyed ten years of environmental, recreational and heritage management project management roles in Suffolk, before taking up the post of External Funding Manager at Suffolk County Council managing European finances and other investments.


Iain’s early career took him from working with the RSPB, the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ,the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, to the USA and the Audubon Society in Massachusetts, Mono Lake Programme in California and Operation Raleigh in Australia.


In addition, Iain has held many voluntary positions in organisations :- Current - Fellow of Suffolk New College, Governor of Ipswich Chantry Academy, Forestry Commission Advisory Committee Member for Eastern Region, Creating the Greenest County Board Member, Wild Anglia Local Nature Partnership Adviser, Green Economy Pathfinder Board Member. Past - Director of Foundation East, Princes Trust Board Member.


My aims with ESW are to :

• To ascertain feedback from sme’s in relation to PR19 and on wider water matters relevant to the Essex and Suffolk Water Forum.
• To network and engage sme’s and increase awareness of water issues within the business community.
• To assist in providing a well engaged network which feeds positively back into the company and wider water initiative.
• To build upon the basis already established by the Water Forum under PR 14 and earlier reviews.
• To help to build a strong link between business and the water industry in a geographical area where business use of water will be a key issue in the future in relation to supply and demand, quality, sustainability and cost.

Sarah Glendinning, Confederation of British Industry

I’m the Regional Director for the CBI in the North East, an area where I was brought up and which I returned to over a decade ago. Roles that I’ve done prior to this include: being an Executive Search Consultant recruiting at senior management, director and non-executive levels; working in sales and marketing roles in the manufacturing, IT and graphic arts sectors in Europe and USA.


I have a keen interest in, and have been actively involved in diversity and developing talent and skills throughout my career and will bring this experience into the Forums’ discussions. I’m involved in a range of groups that support women and their development, specifically in the construction and property sectors. Given my specific passion about providing effective careers advice in schools and colleges, I also chair the Steering Committee for the NELEP′s Gatsby Good Careers national pilot scheme that’s running in the North East.

Anna Martin-Edwards, Groundwork

At Groundwork, the environment is the inspiration for all our work, and there’s a strong overlap between the work of the Water Forums and Groundwork’s priorities and very reason for being. Part of our work includes encouraging and empowering people to use less water in areas where there’s high ′water stress’ (less supply than demand) and helping them understand the importance of their actions. This type of behaviour change is what we specialise in, so will help me assure that NWG’s proposed plans for the coming years will achieve their behavior change goals.


I’m the Operations Manager for Groundwork Suffolk and Norfolk, and have 12 years’ experience of designing, developing and providing environmental advice to businesses, communities and schools. I have also done a lot in the areas of European funding, Corporate Social Responsibility and partnership working.


I’m keen to add value wherever I can to the Water Forums’ discussions and activities, and to create bridges between our two organisations, for example to work together on pilot projects and to network with and learn from other organisations and influencers. 

Richard Powell OBE, Vice Chair and Independent Member

Richard is an environmental and Charity advisor working on the climate change and sustainability agenda’s as well as Charity business planning and governance.


Richard previously spent 28 years as Regional Director of the RSPB and Regional Director for the National Trust in the East of England. During this time, he oversaw the acquisition of 1000’s of Hectares of land and managed project teams to create over 10000 Ha of new nature reserves.


Richard Is Chair of the Regional Flood and Coastal Communities Committee for Anglian (Eastern) and Vice Chair of Buglife UK and Groundwork East and Patron of the Papillion Project in Norfolk.


He is Chair of Wild Anglia the Local Nature partnership for Norfolk and Suffolk and Chair of Norfolk and Suffolk European Structural and Investments Funds Committee, together with membership of the MHCLG National European Funding Programme Board representing all England’s Local Nature Partnerships on the Environment and sustainability.


Richard was Chair of the Region’s Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for 9 years, a Founding Board director for EEDA working on Regeneration of Market Towns, Renewable energy, sustainability and Rural Affairs. He was Chair of Sustainability East and the Sustainable Development Round Table before that, as well as Vice Chair of IEMA the Institute of Environmental Managers and Assessors.


He was awarded an OBE for his work in the Environment and Sustainability in June 2005 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Managers and Assessors and awarded Charted Environmentalist status by IEMA.

Statutory Members
The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) — the Water Watchdog — is here to make sure you get the advice and support you need.


Our team is vastly experienced in providing consumers with free advice and support on every aspect of their water and sewerage services.


We support thousands of customers with complaints they have been unable to resolve directly with their water company. We’ve secured £29 million in financial redress for consumers since 2005.


In addition, we carry out research on a wide range of water issues and publish our findings.


We also have regional committees in England, a committee in Wales and a team of Local Consumer Advocates who represent you in your area.


At the moment, the CCW is represented on the Water Forums by:

  • Graham Dale, is a Local Consumer Advocate for CCW's Central and Eastern Region
  • Barbara Leech, is a Local Consumer Advocate for CCW’s Northern Region
  • Janine Shackleton is a Policy Manager for CCW
Environment Agency
The EA, whose mission is to ‘work to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development’, is one of the statutory members of all water companies’ customer challenge groups (CCGs).


We use the opportunity of working with the Water Forums to review and challenge the company’s next five-year plan so that it achieves the best possible outcomes for both customers and the environment that they live and work in.


At the moment, the EA team members who work with the Water Forums are:

  • Roger Martin, Account Manager - Northumbrian Water & Yorkshire Water Operations Catchment Services.
  • Melissa Lockwood, Account Manager - Operations Catchment Services


As well as taking part in the Water Forums, the EA works day-to-day with NWG to help it protect the environment and supply water to its customers in a sustainable way. You can read more about what the EA does on the gov.uk website.

Natural England
At Natural England, we seek to ensure that the natural environment is managed for the benefit of present and future generations, and are the Government’s adviser for the country’s natural environment.


This is why we are a statutory member of the Water Forums.


The supply of water and sewerage services can affect the environment in many ways, for example: discharges affecting water quality; abstraction from surface and ground waters; and how land and other assets are managed.


At the moment, the Natural England team members who work with the Water Forums are:

  • John Torlesse, Manager in our West Anglia Team, is working with Essex & Suffolk Water.


By participating in the activities and discussions with the Water Forums we can work with other stakeholders towards agreement about how NWG can contribute to the natural environment, whilst meeting the needs of its customers.

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