I was very sorry to hear the news that Alan Cutler has died. He was a good friend to us in the Earth Heritage Trust and was involved from its beginning. Tom Richards, who worked at EHT for many years said, “I remember, that he was always very friendly, charming, smiling and had a relaxed demeanour. A true gentleman you might say.”
Alan Cutler was involved in the setting up of our group which is now known as Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (EHT). Alan made the first approach to Peter Oliver to see if he would be interested in being involved. There was a government initiative to encourage designation of Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS), and an initial meeting with the Nature Conservation Committee. This led to the setting up of a geoconservation group, a RIGS group for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, which was then a combined county. Alan, Helen Stace who is now director of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and Peter Oliver made up the first committee and Peter became the director.
Alan was a keen amateur geologist. He was a founder member of the Black Country Geological Society. From his base in the Black Country, he has worked hard to promote geodiversity in that area and nationally. Alan has done sterling work for geoconservation and to improve links with the biodiversity community over the years. Alan was the treasurer of UKRIGS which became Geoconservation UK. He has worked to promote Dudley Museum and helped Graham Worton campaign to obtain European Geopark designation for the Black Country. He has liaised closely with Natural England. For his voluntary work and much more, he was deservedly awarded an MBE in 2017 for his services to geoconservation.
He became involved more closely again with EHT when a government initiative set up Regional Assemblies and this led to the formation of the West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership (WMGP), the first such regional group in the UK. Representatives from the Black Country, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Dudley Museum, Natural England and British Geological Survey attended regular meetings, taking turns to host them. Alan became the chairman of WMGP which for many years met four times a year and exchanged news and ideas with occasional trips to visit geology sites in the members’ counties to see what they had achieved. He worked hard on behalf of geodiversity to influence national initiatives, contributing the WMGP response to government consultations, such as the Defra discussion document ‘An invitation to shape the nature of England’ and the ‘National Planning Policy Framework’ which gave protection to designated geological sites. Alan was tasked on behalf of WMGP with the strategic view and feeding into local authority Geodiversity Action Plans and Natural England policy.
There was a small amount of annual funding from Natural England and this was used to develop a WMGP website showing important and interesting geodiversity sites in the region to increase public awareness. Sadly, this website is no longer supported. The WMGP, was also able to obtain funding from the West Midlands Assembly and from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund for EHT and other partners to carry out useful projects, such as recording and condition monitoring Local Geological Sites (formerly called RIGS), a project which allowed EHT to work at about 30 sites in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. WMGP helped Natural England by providing details of all the RIGS designated within the West Midlands for a national database and provided geological information for the National Character Area descriptions which were being written for England. Alan put in a tender for WMGP to do the work to monitor the condition of SSSIs in the region. This was not successful; the job being given to a group with no geological knowledge. WMGP partners’ counties voluntarily contributed information to Natural England to complete this work correctly.
Unfortunately, the White Paper on the Natural Environment published in 2011 was lacking geodiversity and the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund was no longer available for projects. Regional Assemblies were disbanded. The members of the WMGP remained in contact but were no longer funded to carry out projects.
Alan continued to work to influence national policy relating to earth heritage conservation. He carried on a wide variety of his work for geodiversity despite for many years having health problems which have limited his activities.
I am grateful to Alan for his help, friendship and kindness over the years. He kept me in touch with Geoconservation UK and enabled me to attend AGMs at the Geologists’ Association Festival in London each year so that I could maintain contact with other geoconservation groups in the whole of the UK, which gave me the opportunity to exchange news and to compare notes on current projects and activities. Alan will be greatly missed by many people throughout the UK and especially those of us in the geoconservation community.