Hack writer

Hack writer

About this blog

This blog records occasional comments affecting hack riders' use of Epsom and Walton Downs, including reports from meetings of the Conservators and the Consultative Committee. See the downs web page for more information about riding on the downs.

Meeting, 18 September 2017

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 18 Sep, 2017 21:38:17

Derby race meeting: weather had been helpful, but the terrorist incident in Manchester ten days before had heightened concerns for security. The racecourse said the clear-up had been good, and others agreed.

Parking on the grassland (enclosed by Tattenham Corner Road, Langley Vale Road north of the underpass and the racecourse railings): officers would need to look into parking on this area to see whether a problem was occurring. It would be raised with conservators at a future meeting.

Scrub clearance at the top of Rifle Butts Alley: described as a continuing project, where work had been done last winter, and would continue to be done. We asked for clearance to be done around the braided section of the hack ride, and the need for action this winter seemed to be understood.

Hack ride between Burgh Heath Road and Longdown Lane South: we asked for vegetation clearance along the hack ride (mainly low branches) — this will be done as soon as possible.

Hatched area ride: few issues reported to date with riders straying — we said that some indication was needed of limits to the hack ride, and particularly emphasis that there was no other access to the area apart from off Walton Road.

Hack sand track: we said that riders needed to be notified of the poor state of the sand track to avoid potential injuries to horses whose riders are unfamiliar with it. The clerk said that the racecourse was not responsible for the sand track, but the point would be taken to the conservators.

Reinstatement of the afternoon ride at the top of Six Mile Hill: officers said that cutting-back has been done to widen the area, and vehicles are excluded, to help the area regenerate over time. The TGMB proposed to reinstate the railings at the top end, and this was agreed.

Cutting of grass on The Hill: in the past, the limits of the hatched area were marked by distinctive cuts to the grass. Officers said they would look at whether a grass baulk could be left along the boundaries.

Condition of concrete posts: some of the concrete posts along the racecourse were deteriorating and liable to collapse. These would be inspected and dealt with.

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Meeting, 13 March 2017

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 20 Mar, 2017 08:47:18

Additional parking outside Rubbing House: we said that any proposals for further parking should be brought first to the consultative committee, and the racecourse agreed.

Staff: interviews shortly for a replacement member of staff.

Afternoon patrols: these were said to be dedicated to addressing incidents of out-of-bounds hack riders. We said they should also address other abuses on the downs, such as kite flying on the hack areas and out-of-control dogs. This seemed to be accepted.

Hack riding maps: a better map is being produced and will be sent to local stables. We suggested that the mailing should be accompanied by an offer of local meetings to help explain the rules for those who found the written explanation too daunting (we offered to help).

Epsom training vision: the racecourse said that training numbers had declined by about half in the last ten years. Epsom needs building up as one of England's key training areas, and this is what the vision seeks to achieve. Epsom needs to promote greater awareness of its importance in racing, including in the local community, where awareness among recently arrived residents is often low.

Horse margin along Langley Vale Road: resurfacing of the horse margin had been funded by local members' local budgets and the Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB). We suggested that the hedge screening should also be considered for improvement.

Hack sand track: the board was due to write again to the Horse Race Levy Board (HRLB) setting out the conservators' position, which was outstanding from the previous meeting (six months ago), having had no response to the previous letter. We were assured that a letter was imminent. The chairman said there was no quick fix, and the board awaited a response to its letter to the HRLB. We pointed out that the track continued to deteriorate in the absence of maintenance, and asked whether anything could be done to keep it in better order in the meantime, particularly in those sections which required only minor attention to keep them useable. However, the conservators were adamant that it would not be appropriate to maintain any part pending resolution of the question of liability.

Parking on Derby Arms triangle: we pointed out that the deposited map requires the retention of pedestrian margins around the triangle when the triangle is allocated for car parking during events.

Hatched area: we said that we were glad to see proposals brought forward by the TGMB, and would work with it to manage issues arising. An opening might be expected after the next TGMB meeting in April, but further work had yet to be done.

Marker posts: an audit of marker posts had been completed and shared with us, with a commitment to undertake various repairs and improvement subject to resources. We said we are happy to discuss how any ambiguities can best be resolved.

Scrub clearance: we asked again for a focus on work to remove scrub where the paths have become braided owing to scrub encroachment and flooding. There was some concern that clearance might make the problem worse, but we thought it could only improve matters. The Lower Mole Countryside Management Service will inspect and advise.

Audit of signs on the downs: this will be brought to a future board meeting (impliedly meaning not coming first to the consultative committee).

Afternoon hack ride on Six Mile Hill: much work has been done, and further flailing will occur. We said more attention needs to be given to preventing hack riders continuing east along Six Mile Hill, as the extension west of the polytrack means the barriers previously present here have been removed.

Downs House triangular area: the board could not afford to hire in cut-and-collect flailing equipment.

Warren wall: concern was express about the condition of the listed wall, and possible damage to the wall by tree growth. It was agreed that one area was of concern, and would be given further attention.

Next meeting: on 18 September 2017.

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Meeting, 26 September 2016

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 28 Sep, 2016 20:56:12

Cllr Liz Frost was in the chair of this biannual meeting of the consultative committee.

Hack sand track: officers gave an oral update, to the effect that there was nothing further to report. Officers acting on behalf of the board of conservators had written to the Horse Race Levy Board (HRLB) to confirm that board did not take responsibility for maintenance, but there had been no reply. We asked what was the plan of action? Officers said it was not the board’s responsibility to maintain, and that it was for the HRLB to maintain, as it was on its land, and it had given an undertaking to Parliament to maintain it. It was hoped that there could be a discussion leading to an amicable discussion. The chairman asked that the letter be sent again with delivery confirmed. There was no evidence that responsibility had ever been assigned from the HRLB to the board. We pointed out that there was no incentive on the HRLB to act, and the HRLB needed to feel that it was bound to respond: the board should seek to progress the obligation. We asked what action the board would take to bring the risks of use of the sand track to the attention of hack riders: officers responded that they intended to take no action to warn or protect riders, and officers thought that they could best avoid liability by doing nothing. [Ed: This seems an odd position to take in these supposedly litigious times, which might best be described as 'burying your head in the sand'.]

Hatched area: the Training Grounds Management Board was said to be re-assessing what could be done with respect to access to the hatched area (a committee had been formed for that purpose). [Ed: The conclusions are awaited with, er, interest.]

Anti-social behaviour: this had been reported at the Mile Post car park, including recklessly dangerous driving, which was a challenge to the downskeepers to address. Police are said to be supportive to tackle the behaviour. Consideration is being given to installing dashboard cameras in downskeepers’ vehicles. It was also suggested that the car park be closed earlier in the shoulders of the summer, when the current closing time is after dusk.

Understaffing of downskeepers’ team: the head downskeeper is off work, and another member of the team will be off work shortly. Some support is being received from the council's ranger service to cover evening shifts so that there are trained downskeepers in the mornings.

Ashley Road equestrian crossing: new notices have yet to be installed, and installation has been delayed pending a further review of the crossing.

Rubbing House parking: we questioned whether the board supports proposals to increase hard surfacing outside the Rubbing House, and were told it had not been asked to express a view (which seemed surprising). We asked that the consultative committee be consulted on any such proposals in the future. It was expected that the TGMB would review the situation in November.

Derby race meeting: there was general agreement that the clean-up was better this year.

Downs house stables: an application for planning permission for the house is expected first, followed by one for the rest of the site.

Use of hack areas for parking: we pointed out that, traditionally, parking was excluded from the downs by the simple use of barriers across entrances, and these had been left open in recent years. The racecourse said there was a report to the board on parking for the next meeting, although it was unclear whether this would be taken. We criticised the drafting of a report for the board without prior discussion in the committee, despite that subject being on the agenda. Officers said there would be an opportunity to see a proposal before it was taken by the board. [Ed: So some back-peddling there, and a wrong move by the racecourse.]

Afternoon hack ride on Six Mile Hill: we pointed out that the ride had been left in poor condition after works to upgrade the Polytrack, and this would be visited during the downs tour later in the week. [Ed: it was indeed visited, and in a sorry state. Works are promised over the winter to widen the ride, and allow the worst affected part to recover.]

Access to Lonsdale enclosure: we reminded the racecourse that the tacit agreement was to allow access through the Lonsdale enclosure while fencing was in place, on non-race days. The racecourse agreed that the fence should be dismantled outside race days, and this had not happened. The racecourse would welcome advice of any shortcoming. We asked the racecourse to consider installing a lockable gate, to make it easier to regulate access.

Signposting of hatched area: the sign advising of closure of the hatched area has been replaced.

Missing marker posts along valley hack ride below Rubbing House: these will be replaced this winter.

Parking in Derby Stables Road: we asked whether the board could support measures to regulate parking in Derby Stables Road, as it was not otherwise possible to control the display of vehicles for sale. It was agreed that the board would consider this.

Rifle Butts Alley: we asked whether there were plans for further scrub clearance at the top of Rifle Butts Alley, to build on work done the previous winter, but acknowledged that staff shortages might make that impossible this winter. It was hoped to take action during the winter.

Access for horse riders: we addressed a general concern that the extent of areas available to horse riders were gradually being whittled away (such as the sand track, the hatched area, the scrubbed up areas), and what was being done to replace these when they were out of action? Point made.

Signs for dog walkers: it was explained that signs were being torn down. It was proposed to replace them with laminated signs which were cheap to replace. Signs were being amended to require dogs on leads on Sundays only until 0930.

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Meeting, 28 September 2015

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 29 Sep, 2015 21:50:12

Introduction: Councillor Liz Frost replaces Jean Smith as chairman of the conservators and ex officio chair of the consultative committee [Ed: Cllr Frost takes over after many years of Mrs Smith's chairmanship, which was initially rotating, but then continuous. Today's consultative committee meeting felt much more like a committee meeting should feel: members were welcome to speak, comments were received respectfully, and there was no sense of inexorably being driven towards closure as early as possible. Whether this represents more than a change in style remains to be seen.]

Car parking for events: no-one was present to give the planned oral update, and a written report was promised. [Ed: this set the tone for the meeting, with lots of actions not followed up. Doubtless the officers are over-stretched, but the meeting didn't feel particularly well prepared for.]

Dog control: officers announced that a report had been commissioned by the Jockey Club from Stephen Jenkinson, an independent consultant on dog control in public spaces, which had just been received. Conflict management training had been scheduled for the downskeepers. This confirmed a desired movement towards better management of dogs (and their owners). The chairman referred to the existing notices on the downs, some of which are old, and refer to 'keeping dogs under control'. A new design has been produced by the the Training Grounds Management Board, which was circulated. The notice would be discussed by the board the following week.

Comments made (by us and others) included:

  • • the draft notice pre-empts full consideration of Stephen Jenkinson's report;
  • • reference in the notice to measures being necessary for dog control on grounds of 'health and safety' were more likely to alienate dog walkers;
  • • there is no legal power to require dogs on leads before noon (this was effectively confirmed by the clerk);
  • • the notice required dogs on lead when horses are present, but it's often not clear whether horses are present;
  • • it's not just horses which need protecting from rampant dogs, but other downs users, such as model aircraft flyers, or families having a picnic;
  • • the notice refers to permission to use the downs under the 1984 Act, but the Act confers a right of access, not just permission.

Stephen's report apparently confirmed that a universal 'dogs on leads' approach would not work. The clerk said that the committee's comments were useful and would be used to inform officers' report to the board next week. I also suggested that the board should consider recruiting staff whose specific background were enforcement, but again, officers said that few authorities were now taking enforcement action because it was costly and was not a successful means of control in isolation. [Ed: correct, but enforcement and prosecution can and should be part of the package where there are egregious breaches: and there are quite a few of those, sometimes putting lives at risk. The conservators should consider whether it is possible to make a public spaces protection order to regulate dog walking, so that breaches could, where appropriate, be dealt with by fixed penalty notices.]

Road humps on Walton Road: no action had been taken to ensure that road humps had been installed to the satisfaction of the highway authority, this would be followed up.

Signposting for hatched area: notices were reported as ready for erection at the board meeting in April, and a check would take place on what had happened.

Hack ride markers on golf course: none had yet been done.

Sand track through woodland west of Nohome Farm: I said that recent use in wet weather suggested the track has been repaired to alleviate boggy conditions, and we were grateful.

Maintenance of triangular hack area east of Downs House: officers still looking into the possibility of procuring machinery to enable the grass to be cut and collected.

Tattenham Corner Road crossing: a meeting will take place between officers and Andrew Cooper about moving the footway from the inside of the corner to the outside, which is where the desire line lies. It was explained that the public often walked on the outside of the road, and the railings were very unforgiving, as they forced walkers into the road. The racecourse said it had never agreed to a swap of sides. The railings could not be set back as this would encourage pedestrian traffic on the racing surface. The chairman asked for the matter to be considered at the next board meeting [Ed: officers were visibly unenthusiastic, doubtless pondering a sense of déja vu]. It was suggested that the local county member might be willing to adopt any necessary works.

Broken gate at top of Chalk Lane: this was discussed with the county councillor, and the council may repair it one more time (and this is thought to have been done).

Issues arising from Derby meeting: the racecourse and officers were meeting to discuss these issues the following day, reporting to next week's board meeting. The contractor had been in operation for three years. It was a challenge to get the downs restored to condition. The first priority was to restore the areas in training use on Sunday morning, and performance was getting better. The weather affected the clean up, and could cause work to be undone. One member suggested that volunteers should be encouraged to engage in the clean-up. I reiterated that there was a particular concern about glass being omitted from the clearance.

Fencing on the downs: it was asked why extensions were permitted to the fencing period. The clerk said the 1984 Act permitted complex set up and take down times for the racing, and it was sometimes inconvenient to dismantle and re-erect in short order, and could harm the downs because of additional traffic. The conservators looked favourably on applications for extensions. The head of legal of the council had agreed that there was a general power to allow this. We reiterated the hack riders' view that the board has no power to extend fencing in the manner permitted.

Later running of Derby and Oaks: it was asked whether the later scheduling of the main races had caused greater disruption in the evening. The racecourse said the gates had opened half-an-hour later than usual, which had allowed a less intense traffic build-up. Both races had been run at 1630, but the entertainment finished at the same time as in the previous year. The last race was at 1750, which was slightly later than in previous years.

Hack ride along 14th tee alongside Grand Stand Road: the golf club had inspected the site with officers and had agreed to allow the grass to regrow along the hack ride to better distinguish the course of the hack ride.

Hack ride and area along bottom of golf course above Rifle Butts Alley: clearance work has already begun and will appear in the winter work programme.

Hack sand track: there would be an oral update to the board meeting next week. It was harrowed and stone picked last week.

Dates of next meeting: to be advised.

Traffic lights at top of Langley Vale Road and Shepherds Walk: a question was asked about installation of lights to enable a safe crossing for horses, cyclists and walkers from one to the other, but no-one knew of progress. It was suggested that the crossing was heavily used by cyclists. It was thought that any proposals could come forward from an analysis of the movement requirements arising from Langley Vale Wood.

[I had to leave slightly ahead of the close of the meeting at this point, but understand that no substantive business followed my departure.

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Meeting, 16 March 2015

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Mar, 2015 06:58:06

Today's meeting was most notable for what came at the end: an announcement by Jean Smith, chairman of the board of conservators, and ex officio chairman of the consultative committee, that she was resigning her seat as borough councillor at the election, and therefore leaving her role as chairman. Jean has been chairman since at least 2006, and with at least one stint before that, and her commitment to securing training on Epsom Downs at the economic and cultural heart of the borough is not in doubt. What is in doubt is who will replace her: there is a convention that a borough council member will take the chair, backed by the reality that council members have a majority on the board.

Byelaw signs: it would be expensive to replace the remaining byelaw signs, but they would be addressed over time.

Hack sand track: the legal officer said there had been further correspondence with the Levy Board, and a meeting was proposed in April. The Levy Board maintained that the conservators were responsible for maintenance, and the conservators took the opposite view. It was hoped to agree a pragmatic solution. Harrowing had been done recently, and stones were noted. I asked for this to be done more frequently., since it was clear that the 'recent' event had been a one-off.

Car parking for events: the racecourse had been questioned over use of the grassland on the north side of Ashley Road for overflow car parking, and it acknowledged that it was a long-standing practice which had not previously been questioned. The racecourse said that the ground in this area had changed appreciably since the new roundabout in 1984. We questioned the authority for permitting parking, given part of the area’s use as a hack ride, and the conservation value of other areas. It was agreed that the legal officers would look into the proper use of the land. The legal officer said that the racecourse could do anything unless it were specifically restricted under the Act, even where the Act sets out in tedious detail the precise circumstances in which the racecourse can do something, an interpretation which we would seriously dispute, and one which I doubt even the legal team at the council actually believe (but which may be politically and economically expedient).

Top Wood: downskeepers had done a great deal of work cutting back the scrub line along Top Wood (the belt of woodland at the top of Six Mile Hill) to regain historical boundaries between woodland and downland.

Bridleway 127: complaints of flooding on the Old London Road section of the bridleway across the Hill, to be pursued with Surrey CC.

Speed hump on Walton Road: the cyclists’ representative questioned the installation of the speed hump on Six Mile Hill. We suggested that Surrey CC should be asked to approve the works, in accordance with the 1984 Act, as the road hump might otherwise amount to an obstruction of the highway.

Habitat management plan: we made a number of points on the plan, including the compatibility of horse riding with nature conservation objectives, and criticised the poor management of Juniper Hill which had led to the loss of the small blue butterfly in recent years. Discussions were taking place about a resumption of grazing on Juniper Hill.

Dog control: dog incidents were recorded as a daily occurrence. We made a plea for measures to reflect the risk to hack riders and other downs users as well as trainers. Officers said that there was a particular threat to trainers’ horses travelling at high speed: we said that hack riders did this too.

Old London Road crossing drainage works: we asked for the drainage works to be designed to ensure that excess water did not discharge onto bridleway 127, which would only worsen the present drainage problems. The racecourse provided an assurance that a substantial soakaway would be installed, which would help address the current erosion on the bridleway.

Racing season fencing: we questioned a report to the board on extending the fencing season, which said that the consultative committee: “At its meeting of 4 November 2002, … indicated that it was not opposed to the continuation of the arrangements”. We said that the July 2010 meeting had expressed ‘concerns’ about the extensions, but this had not been reported. It was agreed that next year’s report would reflect the 2010 deliberations. Another member said that the extensions had been opposed by the Civic Society. The committee’s position on an extension would be considered at the next meeting.

Signposting for hatched area: we asked about progress. These were promised for the end of the month.

Horse ride on south side of Downs House enclosure: scrub had been cut back.

Hack ride markers on the golf course: new markers have been made and installed on existing posts, or posts will be replaced soon.

Sand track west of Nohome Farm: officers will investigate the boggy path with a visit to the site.

Maintenance of triangular hack area east of Downs House: officers suggested that a cut-and-collect operation (on the grass) would be required.

Top of Rifle Butts Alley: clearance of the scrub along the hack ride which crosses the top of the bridleway would be included on the work programme for next year.

Downs clean-up: we complained particularly about cleaning up glass after the Derby. Officers said that areas used by trainers were prioritised, which we said was unacceptable: hack riders’ horses were at risk from glass (as indeed are all downs users), and it was perfectly feasible for the racecourse to put in place a process to deal with it, in fulfilment of its statutory duty to clear up after the Derby. The committee listened politely, but the impression was that the racecourse 'does its best'.

Tattenham Corner Road crossing: a request was made to bring the pavement on the crossing to the opposite side, so that there was safe access from Tattenham Corner to the downs via the equestrian crossing: this was particularly important for disabled users.

New path on Epsom golf course: the golf course wishes to create a new path between the 11th and 12th tees, to accommodate a route subject to heavy wear. There were no comments or objections.

Downs House update: the council were awaiting exchange of contracts, presumably for a new trainer to move in.

Crossing Headley Road to Shepherds Walk: It was suggested that a light-controlled crossing was needed. The Woodland Trust was considering an application for parking near the junction, and this might boost the case for a crossing.

Gate at top of Chalk Lane: this had been broken for some time. The gate had been installed with a local councillor’s (Tina Mountain) funds. We said that the board should see Chalk Lane as integral to the enjoyment of the downs, and lobby for its effective protection. This would be reported to the board. The legal officer said he would discuss the issues with the ward councillors.

Timing of the Derby: racing will begin at around 14:00, the Oaks and Derby will run at 16:30, two further races will follow, with a finish at around 17:50−18:00.

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Meeting, 29 September 2014

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2014 22:29:20

Hack sand track: the levy board has declined responsibility, referring to past correspondence with David Smith about funding for the horse walks, in which the TGMB took responsibility for future maintenance. However, we said that the horse walks were nothing to do with the hack sand track, which point was accepted. We also criticised maintenance which appeared to have ceased in recent months.

Signposting of the gallops: it was planned to replace the ‘look right’ signs on the gallops.

Use of downs for car parking for events: an update on the racecourse position will be emailed later.

Signposting of cycle routes: we asked what further action was to be taken to ensure cyclists know where they can go (and which routes are closed to them). The previous meeting had agreed that some marking was appropriate, but the chairman decided to reopen the debate about whether marking were necessary. It was thought that the code of conduct sign maps were sufficient indication. However, it was agreed to consider at the next board meeting.

Downs House: the sale process was continuing and remained subject to contract.

Vegetation along back of Rosebery Road: I questioned whether it was fair to take enforcement action against householders who had cut down vegetation at the back of their houses, where this had grown up unplanned and uncontrolled, perhaps obstructing a view which existed previously. However, the balance of opinion was in favour of enforcement.

Chalk Lane: we had a useful (if slightly irrelevant) discussion about the regulation of traffic on Chalk Lane. The chairman suggested that representations were made to the local committee.

Golf course: the golf course had withdrawn for now a proposal to clear trees around the 1st hole, but might revert to the scheme in the future.

Horse ride on south side of Downs House enclosure: we asked when the cutting back would begin — enquiries would be made.

Hack ride markers on golf course: we asked for markers to emphasise the routes along Burgh Heath Road and Grand Stand Road.

Sand track west of Nohome Farm: we asked for some attention to address the muddy section through the woods.

Dog control: there seemed to be some enthusiasm for a case being found suitable for prosecution.

East of Downs House triangle: we asked about maintenance of this area, which appeared to have ceased.

Vending on the downs: an ice–cream van was regularly parked on the corner of Tattenham Corner Road and Old London Road, outside the Hyperion enclosure, which obstructed visibility at the roundabout. It was explained that the vans had to be licensed, but the vendor was at liberty to park on the highway. The point would be considered further.

Replacement of byelaw boards: was it intended to replace the byelaw boards, or were the code of conduct signs sufficient? Should the old boards therefore be removed? It was planned to present the results of a sign audit to the board.

Timing of running of Derby: a later time for the race was thought likely to attract a bigger audience. College ward residents were reported to be concerned that this would lengthen the duration of the disruption until later in the evening, particularly if the Derby were run in the evening. It was suggested that local residents should be consulted on any changes.

Dates of next meetings: 16 March and 28 September 2015.

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Meeting, 17 March 2014

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Mar, 2014 22:18:55

Walton Road: we asked for correction of the minutes of the last meeting to amend reference to consideration of a 'stopping up order' for Walton Road, and substitute reference to a traffic regulation order, which is what we understood was contemplated — even though the racecourse has decided not to pursue such an order. If the racecourse was, in fact, considering seeking a stopping up order, that would be dramatically more serious for future use of Walton Road across the downs.

Cycling: now that the new byelaw prohibiting cycling on the downs, other than on authorised routes, is in effect, we asked what plans were contemplated to sign the authorised cycling routes across the downs, so that enforcement could take place against cyclists who departed from the authorised routes. Without such marking, cyclists could not possibly know where they could and could not go.

Hack sand track: The Horserace Levy Board had been to inspect the track and consider what works were required. They had undertaken to look at their records in relation to the sand track, and a meeting was required to discuss the situation and arrive at a pragmatic solution. Even the chairman said that the matter had dragged 'on and on'. We asked about the timescale for resolution, and asked what could be done on an interim basis? The chairman said that funding was the chief obstacle to serious works in the interim. The head downskeeper said that harrowing and stone picking continued on a regular basis.

Ownership of the downs: we pressed again for clarification of whether the racecourse ownership had been duly registered in the Land Registry, to protect the public interest in the land, and it was confirmed that it had been. This will make it much more difficult for adjoining landowners or residents to filch the downs by adverse possession (and therefore deny the public rights of access).

Code of conduct signs: we asked whether there were plans for further code of conduct signs, to build on the three which were now in place, and to replace the dilapidated signs elsewhere on the downs. The chairman said the Jockey Club had provided funding for a further two, and the Board would be asked to approve the siting of these. The downskeepers had undertaken an audit of signs on the downs, noting that some byelaws signs had been lost; the intention was subsequently to move on to look at what further signs were required.

Tarmacadam surfacing of Walton Road across Six Mile Hill: no application had yet been made to the planning authority or to the highway authority for approval to extend the surfacing works. We had put some suggestions to the previous meeting of the board, which had been constructively considered and we appreciated the decision to remove the fencing after a temporary period. The only fencing which remained was at the top of Six Mile Hill, where the surface of the road was not sealed, and the fencing was retained there to guide users onto the sealed section further downhill; however, the racecourse agreed to review the width allowed to users if this were felt to be inadequate at present.

Carriage driving on Walton Road: the racecourse declined to add anything further to the statement minuted at the previous board meeting, that it would not seek any change to user rights on Walton Road.

Signposting of the hatched area: we asked for the hatched area to be signed as either available or unavailable, and this was agreed (Ed: of course, in practice, it will be signed permanently as unavailable: but at least that will be obvious to all).

Car parking on hack areas: we asked about the powers of the racecourse to authorise car parking on the hack areas, particularly that outside the Derby Arms pub, during events (other than on racedays) — the racecourse will respond at a later date.

Constitution: The council's chief solicitor said that a report on the Bill in 1984 said that the consultative committee was set up under an undertaking, to include the TGMB, Epsom Downs Riders' Protection Society and the British Horse Society, for the purpose of consultation on future management and control of the hack rides and paths: so the purposes were considered to be quite specific. The chief solicitor then spoke to oppose many of the working group's proposed amendments to the committee's constitution.

Objects: this was a choice between 'advising' or 'supporting' the board in the discharge of its functions. We said that 'advice' was more appropriate, as 'support' implied complacent agreement. The chairman said that support was reinforcement, whereas advice was caution, urging and informing. We took the view that this underlined the appropriateness of the committee's role in giving advice and not support. Two other members spoke advocating 'advice and assistance', and another said that advice underpinned the principle of consultation. Another spoke in favour of support.

The working group had also advocated consultation to include the remit of 'appearance and biodiversity' to reflect the full range of interests in the downs. The chairman noted that the board had a duty to promote biodiversity, and that the chairman had herself proposed the inclusion of a representative of biodiversity interests on the committee. Yet the inclusion of the additional words was not agreed, although quite how the balance of opinion stood within the committee was unclear.

Membership: the proposal was to broaden the membership to include the residents' associations, but the chief solicitor said that the intention was to embrace the user groups rather than residents' associations, and expressed concern that some residents' associations were registered as political parties. We responded that the committee had freedom of manoeuvre to constitute the committee as the committee thought fit. The cycling representative commented on not wishing to be one of the few users groups 'left outside the gates' if the residents' associations were admitted. The chief solicitor and the chairman thought that it would be legitimate for the cyclists to be members. One member supported the working group recommendation. On the membership of the Model Aircraft Club and the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project, it was explained that the working group's intention was to have wider representation without embracing excessive membership, and to include those who were affected by use of the downs rather than having specific and localised interests who made use of the downs. We said that the membership of the committee was an all or nothing argument: either all users should be represented (including for example dog walkers and kite flyers), or only the minimum (i.e. the hack riders). And we also counselled against membership for the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project, as it had a direct access to the board in an officer role. It was agreed to add representation for cyclists and model aircraft flyers, with no firm view on the representation of residents' associations, and exclusion of the LMCMP.

Persons in attendance: the working group proposed to enable the committee to invite persons to attend via the office of the chairman, rather than to leave this power at the discretion of the chairman. One member said the committee ought to have the power to make such decisions, but the chairman felt that the chairman would in any case reflect the views of the committee. It was agreed not to change the wording. In view of positions previously adopted, it was noted that it might be necessary to retain the representation of the residents' associations as persons attending

Representation of matters on behalf of committee: the chief solicitor spoke against a proposal to enable the committee to represent an item direct to the board, saying that it went beyond the scope of the committee and encroached on the board's remit. The chairman said that this power was unnecessary, because it already happened. We said that the proposal sensibly codified existing practice. Two members spoke in support of the proposal.

Special meetings: we had asked for a power for members to requisition special meetings. The chief solicitor described this as having meetings 'willy nilly'; we said that a suitable quorum (on which calculation we were flexible) would prevent meetings being held without due cause; we referred to the notorious proposal for a concern on the Hill, several years ago, as an example of momentous business which was apparently conceived and disposed of by the board between meetings of the consultative committee. Three members spoke in support, one suggesting a higher quorum. This was recorded as not unanimous, but no-one spoke against.

It was agreed that the working group should be able to attend the relevant board meeting to explain its thinking.

(Ed: the chairman's system for assessing the view of the committee on each proposal, so that it could be reported to the board, was hard to understand. There was lamentably little engagement by other non-working group members of the committee on many of the proposals, and typically, a small number of members expressed views for or against individual proposals, so that there might be, say, two members for and one against. However, the consensual view of the four working group members (who it might be taken were supportive of the working group proposals) were not weighed in the balance, and the chairman was assiduous in avoiding a vote — but while perhaps understandable as consistent with usual practice in the committee, a few votes might both have woken up a few reticent members, and indicated the true disposition of feeling. As it was, several worthwhile proposals were conceded for lack of support (or indeed, opposition), and none was wholeheartedly endorsed (or opposed) by the committee. Yet the constitution ought to be a matter primarily decided by the committee itself, and sufficient to generate some lively debate. One is minded to ask whether today's desultory performance reflects on the committee, the chairman, or the working group and its recommendations?)

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Meeting, 30 September 2013

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 30 Sep, 2013 20:29:24

Grandstand Roundabout: results of a geotechnical investigation awaited, but likely recommendation is a big new soakaway to enhance existing capacity. Detailed design would be completed shortly afterwards, but implementation will depend on financial provision in this year. The soakaway would be in close proximity to the roundabout, but details would await the design.

Buckles Gap roundabout: legal documents have been delayed as it was decided the golf club needed to join in the agreement. Again, a start would depend on financial resources, although it seemed likely to go ahead this financial year.

Byelaws: the new byelaw to control cycling had finally been confirmed by DCLG, and would come into force on 24 October 2013. The three new code of conduct signs were now in production.

Hack sand track: a representative of the Horse Race Levy Board was due to visit to discuss the board’s responsibility for maintenance of the sand track [said to arise from an undertaking given to the Parliamentary Bill Committee].

Ownership of the downs: the secretariat was asked to pursue the racecourse about the undertaking to ensure registration of title to the downs at the Land Registry, as to which a commitment had been given at the previous meeting.

Fencing approval form: It was announced that the fencing approval form had not been used this year in connection with the racecourse's request for an extended fencing season, as it would not have provided any further information than contained in officers’ report.

Walton Road: the Racecourse said they had not progressed this issue and would not until the close of the racing season. The chairman said that she preferred the matter to be resolved by the racecourse with the county council, rather than in discussion between the parties and the hack riders’ representatives [Ed: in other words, a very clear rejection of the possibility of negotiating a compromise]. The secretariat would write to the racecourse about the delay.

Constitution: the clerk said that the working group’s proposals on amendments to the constitution had been considered by her and the chairman, but it was proposed to now meet to discuss further, and it was agreed to do so. The chairman firmly resisted a discussion on the proposals.

Dates of next meeting: 17 March and 29 September 2014.

The meeting closed before 1830, a record in brevity.





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Meeting, 8 November 2012

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 08 Nov, 2012 21:10:12
Good turn-out, with apologies from Simon Dow and Nick Harrison.

Minutes: an objection was made that the disquiet expressed by Epsom Civic Society at the previous meeting with the code of conduct notice boards was not recorded.

Flattening of Tattenham Straight: these works were well underway. We asked about the enclosure of the area between the Lonsdale Stand and the subway: why was the whole area closed off? It was hoped to remove the fencing as soon as possible, once the reseeding had shown to have taken. The whole area was fenced off because it was a pragmatic continuation of racing fencing arrangements (Ed: in other words, it was cheaper, even though it means unnecessarily closing off part of the downs for months. Funny how that wasn't mentioned in the fencing approval request).

Tarred surface to Walton Road: we asked which downs users groups were recorded as showing 'general satisfaction' with the tarred surface to Walton Road, the assertion having been made at the recent board meeting, while the hack riders' dissatisfaction was not recorded. The racecourse explained that it had intended to refer to the trainers' support. Our request for a correction to the board minutes to be suggested to the next board meeting was frostily 'noted'. The chairman said that various downs users had expressed enthusiasm during the board's downs tour (Ed: we weren't invited, so we can't dispute that: no doubt many hack riders come to the downs for the excellent network of tarred roads.)

Cycling byelaw: the byelaw has not been confirmed by the Secretary of State, but will now be submitted for formal approval. The code of conduct signs will contain a map with the authorised routes; there is also a map on the website.

Code of conduct signs and byelaw signs: it was asked when the byelaw signs would be replaced, in view of the expected confirmation of the new byelaw. An audit had been completed of the signs on the downs, which had noted 147 of various kinds. Once the byelaw was confirmed, the other signs would be 'looked at'. The board would need to look at the style of the byelaw boards, but not the content, which would be largely unchanged. However, it was observed that progress could have been made on this sooner, and that the byelaws could not be enforced under the Act, and by the downskeepers, without up-to-date notices.

Control of rabbit population: we asked what had been done since the last meeting to consider rabbit control on the hatched area. Officers had not yet looked at it.

Gardens backing on to the downs: this related to letters sent to residents of Rosebery Road, some of whom had been mowing the land outside their gardens, and in some cases, encroaching onto it. We suggested that owners should not be discouraged from maintaining the land outside their gardens, as this was hack area, and maintenance by adjoining owners was better than none by the board or racecourse. We also asked what was being done to address encroachment? Officers would look to see what further scrub could be removed, and planned to preserve existing areas of grassland. The racecourse would check that it had registered title to the land.

Winter work programme: we welcomed the ambitious winter work programme to cut back rides, and nominated another, at the top of Longdown Lane South and Burgh Heath Road, where visibility for horse riders heading uphill across the road was very poor.

Constitution of the Consultative Committee: we put forward proposals for reform, including circulating papers going to the board to consultative committee fifteen days in advance of the board meeting, with the board papers incorporating any comments made, and circulating draft minutes of the consultative committee to the committee by email for comment, before they were given to the board. Needless to say, the first proposal met with a firm rebuff from the clerk, who did not wish officers to prepare papers any earlier, whether for circulation by email or for prior consultative committee meetings. (Ed: in other words, anything but consulting the consultative committee, which should remain politely obedient until called upon to speak, occasionally.) A more formal membership of the committee was proposed, but referred for further discussion and prospective agreement by four of us.

Walton Road, use by carriage drivers: a tense discussion in which no-one from the racecourse, the downskeeepers nor the conservators admitted to knowing who was responsible for erecting the barriers along Walton Road, the clerk said that the conservators had no locus to require the removal of the barriers (Ed: so it looks like this is about the only thing which the clerk says the conservators don't have any power to do, whereas the clerk conjures powers to do anything else, such as charging for events or closing the Hill for 14 days for concerts, out of thin air. Odd that.), and the chairman wrung her hands. It was more or less admitted that the barriers were illegal ― but the board wasn't willing to do anything about it, and we'd have to raise it with Surrey Highways (Ed: which of course isn't resourced to do anything, anywhere, at any time). We said the alternative was for us to apply to record Walton Road as a byway open to all traffic (which would mean the Road would be shown on Ordnance Survey maps as a public right of way apparently open to motor traffic, promoting use by motor cyclists), which would then enable us to serve notice under section 130A of the Highways Act 1980 to require the removal of the illegal obstructions. We asked, and it was agreed, to present on the alternatives to the next board meeting.

Hack sand track: a report was said to be under preparation for the next board meeting.

Charging for events: we asked about how the conservators purported to be able to charge for events on the downs. The clerk noted that there was no power in the Act to charge for events, but nor was there any prohibition. (Ed: this extraordinary view, that the board as a statutory body could assume powers to charge where none exists in the statute, is the basis of the charging policy. So if you're planning a large event on the downs, you might like to see your lawyers first.)

Golf club proposal: we noted that the proposed surfaced path would potentially encroach on the hack ride at Longdown Lane South, and were assured it would not: the full width of the track would remain available at the junction with Burgh Heath Road.

Hack ride on south side of Downs House enclosure: officers agreed to look again at the encroachment, which, along with barriers placed on the grass adjacent to the track, means that the full width of 12m has been reduced to about 2m.

Marking of hack rides: agreed to meet with officers and downskeepers to discuss marking strategy.

Dog worrying: a member suggested putting notices about dog control on the downs at local vets, dog parlours and other places where dog owners congregate. It was agreed to put this to the next board meeting.

Next meeting: to be agreed by email, probably in early April.

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Meeting, 9 July 2012

Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 10 Jul, 2012 07:12:11

The previous minutes were approved without comment. Apologies from Nick Harrison and Andrew Cooper.

Constitution: a constitution of the consultative committee was turned up from 1991, and it seemed that the chairman could invite along anyone who had an interest in the committee’s business. However, the constitution was circulated only at the meeting itself, so it was a bit hard to pursue questions arising.

Fill for the Tattenham Straight works: this was now intended to be sourced either from the Human Resources block of the racecouse near the old paddock, or from a site in Guildford. Work would commence on 3 September.

Carriage driving on Walton Road: still no response from Surrey Highways. It is said to be a question of whether the width of the highway is unlawfully restricted. They will try the Surrey Portfolio Holder if no response is received from officers within a month.

Events: organiser’s bond for clearing up: we asked what had happened to this idea, which sought to ensure that organisers of a major event would deposit a bond to guarantee satisfactory clear-up after the event. It was reported that the last meeting of the conservators had agreed charging for events, including a bond, which would come into effect for full applications after October 2012. All regular event organisers would be written to, and the intention was to solicit a full application from the organisers of the Race for Life. Charging would be mandatory, and done by the council on behalf of the conservators. The clerk agreed to check on powers of the conservators to charge.

Tarred sealed surface to Walton Road on Six Mile Hill: I asked about the conservators’ approval of the so-called improvement of Walton Road. It was agreed that the conservators needed to consider this at the next meeting. But Alex noted that many hack riders would ride either side of the tarred surface, so moving the erosion elsewhere.

Byelaws: DCLG was reported to be still considering the requested confirmation of new byelaws on cycling on the downs.

Future use of Downs House: the clerk noted a continuing legal dispute. The council had achieved an order for possession in the county court, but the order was being taken to appeal. A member said that she hoped there would be continuing equestrian use of the yard. The clerk said that, if vacant possession was achieved, the building would not be left empty, and would be protected. It was implied that there was a firm intention for continued equestrian use.

Dog control: ambition was now limited to a code of conduct to be displayed on site. We asked for the conservators to be willing to consider cases for prosecution: the chairman made the point that it was usually difficult to identify offenders.

Hack sand track: officers had received a risk assessment from specialist contractors, and a report would be made to a future meeting of conservators.

Clear-up after the Derby: we were told that the intention is to pick up glass straight away, and contractors were sent back where necessary. But the fact remains that, every year, glass is ignored by the regular clearing-up team.

Signage on the downs: it was reported that of the seven introductory road signs on the downs, one was missing, and four were damaged. In view of the Queen’s jubilee visit, it seemed that the county council had restored all of the signs. However, signage appeared to be proliferating, with no regard for need, appearance or location. The byelaws signs were often illegible or defaced. A discussion followed.

Unfortunately, I and Alex had to leave at this point for other engagements, but the minutes of the consultative committee will be available shortly and fill in the remainder of the agenda.

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