Huddersfield Unlimited Meet the Director Sir John Harman

Sir John Harman

John has held senior positions in public, private and third sector organisations. Locally he chaired KSDL – the stadium – for over 20 years, and set up the One Community Foundation for Kirklees which celebrates its 10th year of operation in 2020. At national level he was deeply involved in both Housing and the Environment, chairing several key reports into housing policy, and serving as Senior Independent Director in both the National House Building Council, which provides the great majority of new home warranties in the UK, and the Energy Saving Trust.

He was one of the original Board members of the Environment Agency and became its Chairman in 2000, a post from which he retired in June 2008. His tenure as Chairman saw fundamental reshaping of both Flood Risk and Environmental Protection policy and a significant extension of the Agency’s duties at a time of sharply growing awareness of the reality of climate change. Between 2010 and 2019 he was Chairman of the Institute for European Environment Policy.

Prior to that, he had 20 years of local government experience, 13 as Leader of Kirklees Metropolitan Council, and had a leading role in the national and European associations of local government.

A graduate of Manchester University, he started his working life as a teacher of mathematics in sixth form colleges. He enjoys music and gardening and lives in Rastrick with his wife Sue and a Huddersfield Town season ticket.

Huddersfield Unlimited who we are Austin Brown

Austin Brown

Austin Brown joined Black Cat & Standard Fireworks in 2008, leading its restructure to transform the loss-making business to ensure it remains part of the Huddersfield landscape after 128 years. He is actively engaged across all functions of the business, but still retains a passion for customer relations & employee development. As well as being the head of Black Cat Fireworks, he is also a member of the Li & Fung Academy, helping to deliver leadership training globally to colleagues across the Li & Fung group.

Austin lives in Slaithwaite with his wife Sarah and their son William, where they share an interest in travelling and keeping active through various sports, with a passion for skiing.

As part of Huddersfield Unlimited, Austin wants to help promote the opportunities available across the region and make it a destination for businesses looking for sustainable growth in a supportive environment.

leah stuart next to huddersfield unlimited sign

Leah Stuart

Leah Stuart is also chair of Huddersfield Unlimited’s Transport and Connectivity Group, helping drive forward the organisation’s aims to improve Huddersfield’s transport links and increase infrastructure investment in the town.

Leah grew up in Yorkshire and studied Civil Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, then worked in London for eight years. She has lived in Huddersfield since 2010, which is why she has a special interest in making our town a wonderful place to be; it’s where she wants her family and all families to be able to flourish.

Having spent over 20-years in urban generation and transport planning, she is currently Director of Civic Engineers, a civil, structural, and transport engineering consultancy, with studios in Leeds, Manchester, London, and Glasgow. During her career, she has contributed to policies and devised strategies for implementing transport and infrastructure solutions to best support future growth and promote healthier lives.

She is also a member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Climate, Energy and Environment committee, which oversees projects and spending to reach Net Zero in West Yorkshire. An active member of the Yorkshire Design Review panel Leah assesses the design quality of projects at the pre-planning stage, providing feedback on schemes across the region.

Leah is passionate about making great places and knows the value that inclusive movement networks and good public realm can bring. Leah strongly believes people in Huddersfield and from further afield need to be able access everything easily and safely, connecting them to all the great things Huddersfield has to offer.

Jason Whitworth

An M&A Corporate Finance Advisory Partner at the International firm of chartered accountants, BDO LLP, Jason thrives on helping clients achieve their objectives in building and realising shareholder value. He has over 20 years’ experience advising on mid-market transactions, working with entrepreneurially led businesses, management teams and investors to buy and sell businesses, and raise investment capital. He has expertise in private equity, MBO’s, corporate acquisitions and disposals, and has developed a deep understanding across a number of industries including industrials, logistics, food and drink, technology & media and support services.

After graduating at Sheffield University, Jason joined Robson Rhodes where he qualified as a chartered accountant in 1993. He developed as an auditor, working with some of the firm’s largest clients across both the public and private sector and gained broad experience of public and private fundraising, City reporting requirements and due diligence.

After BDO opened a greenfield office in Leeds he joined them in 2004 to build an M&A advisory business in Yorkshire and the North East. More recently he has been managing BDO’s M&A advisory business across the north of England, with offices in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

He has always had a strong interest in sport and believes in creating the opportunity for all to participate. He is a Trustee at the Huddersfield Giants Community Trust, a charity aimed at enhancing social inclusion and wellbeing through community sports and sports education.

He enjoys music and watching many sports, particularly football and cricket. He has lived in Fixby with his wife, Cheryl for the last 20 years where they have brought up their three children.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and has a degree in Accounting and Financial Management.

Liz Towns-Andrews

Liz originally trained as a chemist, and received a BSc and PhD from Sheffield University. She was Director of Innovation for STFC before joining the University of Huddersfield and led the development of the national Science and Innovation campuses at Harwell in Oxfordshire and Daresbury in Cheshire. She is currently 3M Professor of Innovation and Director of External Engagement for the Huddersfield Business School and until December 2020 was Director of Research & Enterprise for the University. She personally led the University’s research and enterprise strategies, and established the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in addition to securing significant amounts of external funding to support the University’s engagement with local businesses. Liz has extensive business networks and until December last year was a member of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership Business Innovation and Growth Panel. She received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013 for establishing the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre and was the winner of the Yorkshire, North East and Scotland Forward Ladies/HSBC Women in Business STEM award in 2016.

Huddersfield Unlimited who we are Sue Cooke

Sue Cooke

Sue is CEO of the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) and is also currently interim Head of Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Huddersfield. 3M BIC supports businesses with innovation, technology adoption and engagement with the research capabilities of the University. 3M BIC also hosts the University’s Enterprise Hub which incubates student and graduate enterprise, as well as the Leeds City Region Supply Chain Programme.

Whilst at Huddersfield, Sue has set up the Kirklees Top 100 Companies initiative with partners and has developed the Sir George Buckley Leadership Centre offering CMI accredited leadership programmes from the 3M BIC in association with the Huddersfield Business School.

Having enjoyed being involved in one of the working groups advancing the promotion of Huddersfield as a key location for a heath and med tech cluster, Sue was delighted when she was invited to become a board member, helping to better strengthen the collaborative relationship between Huddersfield Unlimited and the University, and connecting the work of HU into the efforts of the University, the local authority and the regional LEP/Combined Authority.


Charles Maltby

Originally from South Yorkshire, Charles Maltby has been a big part of the Huddersfield area since 1985 and leads on coordinating activity aimed at bringing together the whole district of Huddersfield, lobbying for appropriate inward funding from both business and authorities to regenerate the town.  

He has a keen interest in mentoring businesses to help them tailor their products and services in an innovative way to best suit the demands of their customers and the ever-changing world we live in.   

Charles offers leadership and expert guidance through his role at Huddersfield Unlimited on how to put the town on the map and make it a desirable destination for business, the public and students alike.  

Maya Howcroft

Maya Howcroft has a wealth of experience in high profile roles and has worked all over the north of England with some big brands such as BMW, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, across various areas such as account management, events, marketing, PR, customer relationship management, administration, and most recently as a technical PA.

Maya lives in North Yorkshire with her husband and two young boys, Leo and Freddie. She is half Spanish and lived in Madrid for 5 years, and continues to enjoy visiting her large family in Spain. Originally from West Yorkshire, and having studied at Greenhead College and lived in Huddersfield for 8 years, Maya is a passionate believer in Huddersfield’s future as a diverse, culturally significant town with a wealth of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn, work and prosper. It is this belief that attracted her to Huddersfield Unlimited, and the desire to help this town shout about its innovative, hard-working and friendly people, and assume its rightful place as a big hitter, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Maya has worked with Huddersfield Unlimited since May 2019, following a 4 year career break to raise a family, and has taken on the administration and coordination of all the great work in the pipeline. She is excited to use her skills and experience to make sure Huddersfield Unlimited can really stand up for Huddersfield!