Interview - John Moverley, chairman, The Amenity Forum

On a public level, the amenity sector has been seen as the poor relation in the great debate on the use of pesticides.

John Moverley, chairman, The Amenity Forum - photo: NWDA
John Moverley, chairman, The Amenity Forum - photo: NWDA

Overshadowed by how the new EU legislation is likely to impact on food- growing, the consequences the new rules may have for the maintenance of parks, sports grounds and other public spaces have been largely ignored. But this situation has not been caused by a lack of effort on the part of the Amenity Forum, which has been lobbying and consulting with Government on the issues since its inception in 2003.

Most people working in the sector will be well aware of the strong voice created by the group's founder and chairman Jon Allbutt, who last week handed over the reins to John Moverley OBE.

Moverley faces a considerable task as he grapples with the issue of ensuring that the sector is fully represented in the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) consultation on implementing the Sustainable Use Directive into UK law.

While he readily admits that he is no expert - yet - Moverley says he is keen to take action in support of anything that will have an impact on businesses across the sector.

"I'm not a pesticides expert, but I have been involved in the amenity sector for a long time now and I am passionate about it," explains Moverley, who is a non-executive director at Glendale, following stints as the chief executive and principal of Myerscough College, and chief executive and chairman at the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

"The amenity sector covers such a broad church, from the guy who comes down the drive to look after a lawn to the local authorities. The big challenge is how we bring all that together.

"The PSD is looking to the sector to demonstrate it is able to deal with the changes and relate to them, so there is a real reason to get more people involved in the Amenity Forum."

While Moverley may not need or wish to become a thorn in PSD's side, his track record will help strengthen Allbutt's work. The Amenity Forum has worked very closely with the PSD and it is this special relationship that should help the sector when the new rules do come into play. "The work that people like Jon Allbutt and the forum have done so far is tremendous," says Moverley. "In many ways they have punched above their weight. I want to try to build on my strengths, which might be more the lobbying role.

"Everyone talks about agriculture, rightly, but the reality is that in cleaning and greening our towns and cities, this legislation is going to pose some real challenges."

Moverley seems unfazed by the task in hand. In fact, he appears energised by it and puts this down to the fact that he is an opportunities man. "I believe you have to grab opportunities," he says. "In some ways I look at this and think 'there are a lot of challenges here' but maybe it is actually an opportunity."

He is unafraid of courting controversy. During his time at Myerscough College, Moverley riled education inspector Ofsted by introducing commercial activities with the intention of bringing income to the college.

"I think Ofsted felt the commercial business must be interfering with the educational elements," he laughs. "Sometimes it is all about the culture of targets, rather than benefits."

His approach may not have been traditional, but it helped increase the college budget from £7m to £25m during his time there and elevated students numbers from 1,000 to 2,600.

Moverley's passion didn't go unnoticed, and he was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2004.

Although he has not yet reached the age of 60, the keen gardener and sportsman has held key roles across the education and business communities, as well as advising governments and developing links overseas. Moverley says he retains a sense of needing to push himself constantly and he tells HW that this stems from a tragedy in his youth that has forced him to make the most of every day.

"My mother died in a car crash when I was 14 and she was 42 - this has given me this absolute belief in making the most of time," reveals Moverley.

"I collect clocks at home and I hate wasting any time - that is always in the back of my mind."

Combined with his early success as the first of his Yorkshire farming family to go to university, there is a personal drive to his achievements. Moverley is keen to bring the benefits of further education and training to the amenity sector, but he says the mantle has to be taken up by clients.

"I would love to think that most big organisations were asking about training but there are still issues around cost," he says. "(The sector) can do integrated approaches but it costs more and we are still dealing with people who just want clean parks and green spaces.

"Part of the problem with the debate on pesticides was that it was all in a little bubble and hadn't been thought through. We need to get some realism into policy makers."

1971: BA First Class Honours in agriculture, University of Cambridge
1971-77: Business consultant and Nottingham University research fellow
1977-84: Tutor, Bishop Burton College
1984-86: Senior management tutor, Shuttleworth College
1986-88: Deputy principal, Bicton College of Agriculture
1988-1995: Principal and chief executive, Lincolnshire College of
Agriculture & Horticulture
1995-97: Associate pro-vice-chancellor, De Montfort University
1997-2005: Chief executive and principal, Myerscough College
2004: OBE for services to education
2005-08: Chief executive and chairman, Royal Agricultural Society of

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