Press release

Natural England preferred candidate for chair announced

Andrew Sells has been announced as the preferred candidate to the post of Chair of Natural England

Following an open competition, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, has announced Andrew Sells has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate to the post of Chairman of Natural England.

Mr Sells was identified following a rigorous selection process which was Chaired by an independent assessor from the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The recruitment process was conducted in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.

The Secretary of State has invited the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee to hold a pre-appointment hearing and to report on Mr Sells’ suitability for the post. This is in line with the Government’s commitment to strengthen the role of Parliament in scrutinising major public appointments.

Pre-appointment hearings enable select committees to take evidence from preferred candidates for major public appointments before they are appointed. Hearings are in public and involve the select committee publishing a report setting out their views on the candidate’s suitability for the post. Pre-appointment hearings are non-binding but Ministers will consider the committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with an appointment.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity (if any declared) to be made public. Mr Sells has declared he has made donations to the Conservative Party.

Mr Sells qualified as a chartered accountant prior to developing investment banking and venture capital interests. He was Managing Director of a venture capital business, which he co-founded. His non-executive career began with Linden Homes, a company which he chaired from start-up. He recently retired as Chairman of the Garden Centre Group (formerly Wyevale), leading the Group from near bankruptcy to becoming a strong business. He has held Trustee roles with the Royal Horticultural Society and the Policy Exchange (since 2007) and is currently chairing a DWP Task Force on a one-year pro bono contract looking at ways of improving the efficiency of the DWP’s Work Programme.

Andrew Sells lives on a small farm in north Wiltshire where he has planted thousands of young trees and created acres of wildlife habitat where none existed before. His father was a very early conservationist who built the original lakes for the RSPB at Sandy, and later restored the water gardens at Balmoral and Capability Brown’s lakes at Stowe.

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