During the mid-1960’s, some residents will remember that Nutfield residents became very upset because tractors and heavily laiden trailers were using Mid Street and Crabhill Lane to transport cut grass from Kenley Airport to Redhill Aerodrome where there was a grass drying plant. An action group at that time was coordinated by Shona Barker, Dick Deacon and Dorinda Rowe. Shona went on to become a dynamic chairman of the newly formed Society and then left to pursue a career as District Councillor.
The South Nutfield and Nutfield Conservation Association was formed in April 1971.The founder members were Havard Gregory, the first Chairman (who now lives in Wales), David Wood (Vice-Chairman) Colin Dalton(Secretary) Peter Mansbridge (Treasurer) Roger Carter (who now lives in Bletchingley) and Dennis Noyle who was involved with the Society for many years including two spells as chairman. He sadly died a few years ago, after a long illness. The first President was Admiral Hill – Norton. An inaugural meeting was held in the Village Hall which was very well attended, and included Sir Geoffrey Howe, who was our local MP at the time.
The main reason for the formation of the Society was to act as a pressure group to prevent expansion at Redhill Aerodrome. At this time, Bristow’s Helicopters wished to build a big office block for training and development. This application went to Appeal and it is recorded that the Inspector, who was in favour of the application being turned down, said “I consider the need to protect the environment of the Green Belt far outweighs the Appellant Company’s need for this property development” Despite this, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Geoffrey Rippon decided to ignore this advice and gave consent.
By this time, Shona, Dick and Dorinda were active Committee members of the Society. Soon Alec and Moyra Logan moved into the village. Moyra immediately became involved, and worked closely with Dick Deacon as they both felt that communities living near aerodromes needed stronger representation. In 1974, the Redhill Airfield Consultative Committee (RACC) was formed and, with the help of Sir Geoffrey Howe (plus the dogged resistance of Moyra and Dick), Nutfield Conservation Society was able to get a place on this Committee.
It was felt that other communities living near small airfields would be experiencing the same problems, and that, by combining forces with others, we could learn and strengthen our position. This was the beginning of a crusade for Moyra, who, writing on behalf of the Association (as the Society was then called) contacted local groups, Parish and County Councils, and invited them to attend a meeting in London. The Airfields Environment Federation (AEF) was formed in 1974 (now the Aviation Environment Federation) and grew to have a national and international voice for aerodrome and airport neighbours’ concerns. Moyra became Director of the AEF retiring in 1997 and moving to Argyll where she lives today. In 1994, she received the MBE for ‘services to environmental conservation’, which she kindly says she felt was a recognition of the services of both the Nutfield Conservation Society and the staff and supporters of the AEF.
One of the early objectives of the Society was to secure an effective ‘fighting fund’ for legal or other expert support in case of any future aerodrome expansion threat - or for other environmental issues.
The Society organised the Queens’ Jubilee Carnival and Fete on Saturday 4 July 1977, which completed the celebratory week of musical, sporting and social events. The procession lined up in the Avenue and made its way to the Recreation Ground, where there were stalls and children’s sports.
On 27 October 1980, the Constitution of Nutfield Conservation Society was registered with the Charities Commission. This was updated later in 2007 and, at the same time, the Society applied to register with the Taxation Department to be able to claim back Gift Aid from charitable donations to the Society.
Katharine Wiersum was a spirited chairman from about 1985 for 8 years. She remembers a day when the Society members were nearly arrested by the local constabulary for digging up trees! In fact they were planting trees on the land at the end of Kings Cross Lane, near the motorway bridge. In 1985, Sir Geoffrey Howe was invited to plant a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) to encourage tree planting. It was during this time that the first and second editions of the first set of footpath walks were published by the Society, with text by Martin Briggs and illustrations by the late David Watts.
In the early 1990’s the 500 acres of Green Belt land which made up Redhill Airfield was bought by Redhill Aerodrome Ventures Ltd (RAVL). In 1993, they put in an application to build an international airport/conference hotel. The Society, under Katharine’s leadership, objected strongly to this application, as did the local parish and district councils, and also Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GACC). At this time the KRAG campaign group was formed – a committee composed of 15 local people with wide ranging skills. Working together with KRAG, the proposal was defeated at the Public Inquiry. Since then, we have had to continually resist various RAVL plans to build on this valuable greenbelt site
In 1999, the Society was involved in a project to purchase Gore Meadow, a 20 acre site located north of A25, to create a wonderful sporting and recreational facility and wild life site for the future. Sadly, the entire plan had to be scrapped because AirBP were unable to reach agreement with Laportes, and the real risk of soil contamination could have been a problem if the field was going to be used for recreational purposes by the community. The Society was left with money from Entrust, which was donated for various village causes eg planting out the raised gardens at the War Memorial and providing the fixed steel benches; donation towards the Woodland Trust to purchase and maintain the field adjacent to Philpote’s Wood; funds for the Tree Wardens towards equipment and to pay for tree surgery.
The Millennium was celebrated by the planting of half a ton of daffodil bulbs purchased by the Society which have been much appreciated by the residents when the flowers appear every Spring. A Subcommittee of the Society also organised the publication of 9 circular Village Walks. Each walk was printed on a separate leaflet and folded to fit a video –box for easy storage. The Society is currently involved with updating these details before reproducing some current versions.
In the past 10 years there have been numerous plans submitted by RAVL for ambitious plans to develop the airfield greenbelt site and we have united with KRAG and the Parish Council to defeat these proposals. NCS has worked with KRAG and the Parish Council to obtain a 1000 signature petition objecting against the latest hard runway proposal. The application has again been refused by both Tandridge and Reigate and Banstead councils although RAVL are likely to go to appeal.
The Society first produced the Nutfield Village Calendar in 2007 with valuable support from Peter Finch and Kent Sandiford and this has since been produced annually to now reach annual sales of 400. We also produce village Christmas Cards which are sent far and wide to ex residents of the village. Regular fundraising events are held to boost Society funds to ensure we are able to preserve the rural village character of Nutfield.