The Team

Sonia Sinanan - Operations Manager

Sonia has over 35 years of experience working in the not-for-profit sector, and has worked at a senior management level for the last 20 years. Her areas of expertise include operations, administration, financial and project management, organisation and community development, participation, and the use of ICTs. Sonia has worked across the voluntary sector in homelessness, drug misuse and international development organisations. She was a founder member of the charity Computer Aid International where she was Director of Operations for 10 years, and a board member for 6 years. She has also worked as a UK Grants Officer at Comic Relief, Deputy CEO at the Association of Charitable Foundations, Director of Operations at the peacebuilding charity, Conciliation Resources, and is a co-founder of Web Gathering Ltd. Sonia is currently a trustee of the international development charity, Coda International. At The Ecological Land Cooperative Sonia coordinates the work of the organisation and provides support to the staff team and the board of Directors. Email:

Oli Rodker - Site Development Director

In addition to working for our cooperative as Site Developer, Oli also sits on the ELC board of directors. Oli is part of the core group of the Landworkers’ Alliance. Over the last twenty years Oli has also worked – and continues to work – on a variety of environmental projects and campaigns. Previously he co-founded Equinox Housing Co-op in Manchester and Landmatters Co-op, a 42 acre permaculture community in Devon. He is a director of Knott Wood Coppicers, a workers’ co-op specialising in woodland management and tree planting. Email:

Oliver Bettany - Membership & Engagement Manager

Oliver brings with him to the ELC over 20 years of professional experience working as a web developer and digital consultant in the corporate and not-for-profit sector, working with organisations like the BBC, McGraw-Hill, LloydsTSB, WaterAid and Friends of the Earth. He has been actively involved in environmentalism and agriculture since 2011. Before joining us at the ELC, he earned his stripes as a project manager in the enlightened agriculture sector through his work at Sacred Earth, a biodynamic land, education and community project based in Sussex, where he project managed the organisation’s transition into community ownership in 2016. Oliver is also a humanistic counsellor, ecotherapist and group worker who is passionate about developing organisational culture in order to get the most out of small teams. 

As well as organising member events like our AGM and representing us at events across the UK to promote our work and encourage people to join us, his job is to communicate with and support our existing members and manage the recruitment process for new stewards of ELC land. Email:

Ruth Munns - Planning Manager

Ruth has been actively interested in Low Impact Development and land based living for many years. Originally, during her undergraduate studies in International Relations at the LSE, this was through the prism of sustainable international development, however her interest quickly became centred on the importance of grass root solutions to global issues, which led her to focus closer to home. Ruth’s interest in planning grew from this and her strong commitment to environmental and social justice. As such it was not until later that she began concentrating on the importance of the planning system in creating positive change. This new focus led to her studying for an RTPI accredited MSc in Urban Planning, at Bristol UWE, where she later graduated with distinction. She now has 4 years planning experience working with Ruston Planning Ltd (RPL) and as a self-employed consultant. Her work to date has covered a wide range of applications from Gypsy Traveller sites, through Low Impact Development, to work relating to a land-based school. Although her previous professional planning experience falls within the private sector, she has worked closely with many third sector organisations; including the work that RPL carried out for the ELC at the Greenham Reach site.

Ruth's role for the ELC includes researching, writing and submitting planning applications for our low impact small farm clusters and campaigning for changes in planning policy to support low impact, sustainable rural development.

Mary Hogan - Fundraiser

Before moving to the UK, Mary taught secondary school English and Music in Ireland for 10 years. Since her move to the UK Mary has worked with the charity/social enterprise sector, mostly helping them raise funds from trusts and foundations. She has worked with WaterAid, the Quakers, Citizens Advice and the literacy charity Beanstalk, all of which she enjoyed, but really 'found her tribe' when she started taking jobs with environmental organisations: 10:10 Climate Action, the Conservation Volunteers and Sutton Community Farm. Mary adores all aspects of nature and loves growing food weekly in a community garden and playing the piano (not at the same time). Mary works on raising funds for the development of the coop. Email:

Lauren Simpson & Phil Moore - Communications Team

Lauren’s background is in documentary film production having produced the acclaimed independent cinematic documentary Just Do It - a tale of modern-day outlaws released in 2011. Until 2017 she worked as the Operations Manager for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and as Production Manager at Dartmouth Films.

Phil is a freelance filmmaker and writer having worked for a number of organisations including The Real Farming Trust, Agroforestry Research Trust, ActionAid, The Environmental Law Foundation, Ecologist Magazine, Permaculture Magazine, Permaculture Association Britain, The Environmental Justice Foundation, Global Action Plan and The Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.

Together Phil and Lauren produced a series of nine short films called Living with the Land and have launched their own farm business Parc y Dderwen as they set up a mixed smallholding in West Wales. Email:

Zoe Wangler – Policy Work

Zoe is working as part of a collaboration with the Landworkers Alliance on a two-year project to integrate agroecology into the work streams of agriculture and land-use planning ministries in England, Wales and Scotland.

Zoe sits on the ELC board of directors. One of ELC’s cofounders, Zoe was the ELC’s Managing Director from 2009-2015. Before working at the Cooperative Zoe worked as a freelance environmental researcher and in not-for-profit property development and management. Email:

Brett Spiller - Planning Agent, Arlington and Sparkford Sites

Brett is a Chartered Town Planner, a longstanding board member of RTPI SW and founder of Chapman Lily Planning Limited.  He is able to draw upon his understanding of the process of Local Plan preparation, the importance of the underpinning evidence base and the ever present political dimension of planning, to promote land for new development.  He has a passion for innovative forms of development that challenge the traditional status quo and embody the three strands of sustainability to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to local communities.  As such, he felt privileged to offer professional advice to the ELC during the formative stages of the Greenham Reach appeal.  Needless to say he was delighted with the outcome. Brett has worked within consultancy, unitary and district local authorities, and more recently for a national waste and renewable energy firm. His expertise includes planning appraisals, planning applications & appeals, community engagement, EIA and HRA Regulations. He specialises in residential, commercial, mixed-use and infrastructure projects.

Dr Simon Ruston - Planning Agent, Greenham Site

Simon is chartered town planner with his own practice, specialising in Low Impact Development as well as Gypsy and Traveller planning matters. Simon has a doctorate in planning law from the University of the West of England and has worked and researched in his specialist fields for the last nine years. He has spoken, published and delivered training on behalf of the RTPI, Planning Aid Scotland, NAPE (Network for Planning Enforcement) conference, South West Councils, Legal Action Magazine, and Bristol UWE.

Board of Directors

Lynne Davis

Lynne has been working in land and food system transformation for the past decade. She has a background in software, regenerative agriculture and food system policy. After training as a farmer in the Forest of Dean she worked on a number of commercial livestock and vegetable holdings and founded Street Goat in Bristol. She has worked on agricultural policy with the Landworkers' Alliance, La Via Campesina and the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. She founded Dean Forest Food Hub and now works with food producers and community/regional food distribution enterprises across the country as CEO of the Open Food Network.

Oli Rodker - see above

Chris Smaje

Chris co-runs and owns a small farm near Frome in Somerset, comprising a market garden, woodland, campsite and a small livestock operation. Previously he worked in academia and the public sector as a social scientist. Having helped to steer his project from bare agricultural land to a functioning farm with a permanent rural worker’s dwelling, he appreciates the difficulties facing new entrants trying to get established in farming and is committed to the ELC as a model for simplifying the process and widening access to farming. Chris has written about agricultural and environmental issues for various publications including the Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, The Land Magazine and Significance – he blogs at

Zoe Wangler - see above

Holger Westphely - Treasurer

Holger is one of the co-founders of Eastside Consulting and sits on the Eastside Primetimers Board as a non-executive Director. He has advised hundreds of social organisations over the last 10 years on finance, strategy and business planning. He also played a variety of roles on government funded support contracts aimed at helping small organisations to raise investment, ranging from project management and consultancy to quality assurance. More recently Holger has focussed on social investment and impact measurement, helping clients to define and monitor their social metrics with a view to demonstrating their impact to investors and commissioners.

The Ecological Cooperative is also fortunate to benefit from the support of many other pro-bono advisors and volunteers:

  • Legal advice (planning), solicitor Lucy Thomas, Ashurst LLP;
  • Legal advice (real estate) and conveyancing, solicitor Louisa Bradley, Ashurst LLP;
  • Legal representation (planning), barrister Phil McLeish, Garden Court North Chambers;
  • Planning advice, Chartered Planner, Daniel Scharf MRTPI PfT Planning, Blake Morgan;
  • School visit and work day co-ordination support, member Teresa Perrella