Peel deputy named NWDA chairman

Robert Hough, deputy chairman of Peel Holdings, has been confirmed as the new chairman of the region's most powerful quango, the North West Development Agency.

The move will ignite speculation among property and regeneration circles that Peel might receive more favourable treatment in planning policy in the future.

The NWDA confirmed Hough would continue as a non-executive director of Peel but step down from deputy chairman.

Peel, headed by Lancastrian billionaire John Whittaker, is among the region's biggest developers and landowners and is a famously aggressive lobbyist, demanding special planning dispensation for its larger schemes.

Hough is already an NWDA board member, joining in December 2007, and will take over from current chairman Bryan Gray on 17 August 2009.

He said in a statement: "Naturally I am thrilled and hugely honoured. Having been a board member of the NWDA for over 18 months, I have been fortunate to get to know both the region and many of the hardworking and dedicated staff of the agency. I am looking forward to working with both them and our many partners for the benefit of our region.

"I have no doubt that there are challenges ahead but it is my personal commitment to make sure that the region is well placed to face them robustly, build on our many strengths and emerge from this downturn in a strong position."

Peel owns 9m sq ft of property and 25,000 acres including the Manchester Ship Canal and hinterland, the Trafford Centre, Port of Liverpool, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and large parts of Salford Quays where it is building Media City UK.

Peel has called for a special planning authority to be set up to over-ride local authority control along its Ocean Gateway masterplan for the Ship Canal area. The concept is expected to be informally acknowledged but not set in planning policy in next year's NWDA Single Regional Strategy.

Hough is currently non-executive deputy chairman of Peel Holdings and was previously an executive director for over 13 years. He is also a non-executive director of a number of other companies, including Provident Financial and Styles & Wood Group.

On the NWDA board, he has responsibility for development and infrastructure, Business Link and sub-regional strategic liaison for Lancashire. He is also a member of the Northern Way Steering Group.

Hough is a board member of the University of Manchester and previously a member of the North West Regional Assembly Executive Board. He chairs New East Manchester and is a member and former chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "I am delighted that Robert has been appointed as chairman. His skill and expertise will help the NWDA to steer the region out of the economic downturn and into a new period of growth for the region.

"I would also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the NWDA board and staff, to thank Bryan for his dedication, significant achievements, commitment and continuous hard work as chair over the past six years."

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