Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 01 Nov, 2011 07:19:24
A meeting which was almost entirely dominated by issues raised by horse riders' representatives, but even then lasted only 50 minutes. Oddly, despite a good turn out for the meeting, hardly a word was spoken by any other representative.
Bridleway 146: we reiterated that a traffic
regulation order could be made to control cycling on the ‘horse margin’
adjacent to Langley Vale Road (a point we've made before).
TGMB hatched area: no change in position on use of
hatched area. We pressed for disclosure
of the criteria which will permit (or not permit) use and asked the chairman to
press for an answer. The racecourse said
that the eastern area suffered from rabbit damage etc and the physical ground
conditions were unsuitable; the western area was maintained for use as training
grounds: the TGMB’s view was that opening this area would lead to uncontrolled
use and conceded that the condition of the
hack sand track was critical to maintaining the hack rider facilities in good
condition. We asked whether there was
any possibility of maintainance of the eastern end of the hatched area? The TGMB believed it was not responsible for
maintenance, but the downskeepers agreed to review what would be required,
including taking account of the offer of rabbit control by a third party.
Training restrictions: the TGMB had called for
greater enforcement of regulations on horses in training, which had lapsed in
recent years: these covered access to the gallops, gallops in use, speeds. Horses had been straying onto the grass, for
example, in place of using surfaced tracks.
The TGMB will re-issue the regulations and seek to police them more
We also asked for a proper balance between policing use of
the gallops by hack riders, and ensuring hack riders’ safety by enforcing rules
on kite flying, dogs, cycling etc. Just because the TGMB had asked for more
patrols of the gallops during the afternoon should not divert resources from
other legitimate enforcement duties.
Works to Tattenham Straight: there will be a display
of racecourse plans for the Tattenham Straight at the Grand Stand, 1530-1930 Monday 7
Ebbisham Lane: we asked why the board, at its
discussion on 17 October, had failed to acknowledge the potential savings which
would accrue from eliminating the need for double handling of materials
delivered to the hack sand in the event of reinstatement works, by ensuring
that Ebbisham Lane is kept in good repair.
Those savings had not yet been identified, but a report to a previous board
meeting had identified the costs as a significant element in the total costs of
reinstatement. We said we were puzzled
that the point had not been considered by the board. The clerk said the board had had my comments before it at the last meeting, but neither clerk nor chairman could explain why they weren't pushing an approach which would save them money. Unless of course they don't think that the plans for reinstatment of the hack sand track have a hope in hell of being approved.
Walton Road: I asked what provision would be made to
ensure that carriage drivers could use Walton Road across the downs, given that
it is currently obstructed by various barriers.
Since there was some lingering uncertainty about whether the traffic
regulation order on the Walton Road did permit carriage driving, I agreed to
forward a copy of it to the clerk when it was received by me from the traffic authority,
Surrey County Council, who will then provide advice.
Events maps: We asked for a map of the routes to be
used by events to be published on the downs website alongside the calendar, so
that riders could ensure they would avoid those routes. It was agreed that officers would seek to do
Next meetings: 9 July 2012 and 8 November 2012 at
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 05 Jul, 2011 21:59:27Ebbisham Lane
: The cyclists representative observed
that the board at a recent meeting had duly received the clerk’s report on the
procedure for serving notice on the highway authority, but had not had any
opportunity for discussion on the procedure, and the chairman very reluctantly
accepted that a future board would be asked for its views. (Ed: it
will be interesting to see how much latitude the board is given: the chairman’s
antipathy was all too apparent.)
Dog control orders: The chairman said that the
difficulty of enforcing dog control orders was key: education was important
with better behaviour needed from dog owners.
Officers had been working hard to achieve results at Nonsuch Park. After several members expressed concern about
dog control, the clerk agreed to convey the committee’s views to officers about
dog control on the downs. I suggested that
some form of byelaw or dog control order was necessary as a longstop to deal
with egregious behaviour, even if prosecution was unlikely to occur. However, the clerk noted that byelaw 22b
dealt with out-of-control dogs, and that enforcement was the issue.
Chestnut paling fencing: Commented on the chestnut
paling fencing going up a fortnight before the event: the racecourse said the
fencing set out a footprint for the festival, and was therefore needed as the
first step in marking out the downs. However,
my point that the fencing stood in splendid isolation on the downs over the bank
holiday weekend, serving no purpose at all, was side-stepped.
Authorisation of early fencing: the chairman said
that the clerk stood by her advice, that the board could authorise something
which the 1984 Act clearly does not permit it to do (Ed: notwithstanding its absurdity).
No debate. (Ed: So it’s official. The
conservators and the racecourse don’t consider themselves bound to operate
within the terms of the 1984 Act, so why should anyone else?)
Clean-up of the downs after the Derby: it was
recognised that glass had again been left behind, and I asked why the
contractors were not required to deal with it.
The racecourse said that broken glass was difficult to identify, and was
sometimes missed. The contractors were
keen to learn from feedback. (Ed: same story every year.)
Hack sand track: Full reinstatement would be very
expensive, but would be considered at a future board meeting. Alex noted that even the current maintenance
programme was inadequate, and that even if nothing could be done towards reinstatement,
the track should be kept safe and convenient to use. It was unacceptable to persist with the
current arrangements. The head
downskeeper said he had acquired a harrow with the intention of harrowing once
or twice a week. Integration of council
operations with the downskeepers would also assist in maintaining a more
effective programme of maintenance.
Hack rider misbehaviour: Simon Dow’s report,
previously not disclosed, referred to riding along the top of Six Mile Hill
between the Polytrack and the woods. We
said that this area needed better signposting, and proposed better markers at
each end of the part which is not a hack ride. We agreed that we would inform other hack riders of the concerns expressed by the trainers regarding encroachment on this area and request them not to do so through the website. Done.
Hatched area: we asked the chairman to ask the TGMB
to respond to the questions about what conditions would permit use of the
hatched area. She agreed, but said she
had little influence. (Ed: odd that, you’d think the chairman of
the conservators would have considerable influence. Perhaps she meant that she did not wish to
Cycling on the downs: Epsom cyclists had asked for
the hack ride along the south side of Juniper Hill to be authorised for
cycling. We said this request had been
made and refused twice in the past, on the grounds that the path was narrow and
suffered from poor visibility. The clerk
agreed there had been a lengthy debate on authorised cycleways, but it was a
matter for the board to decide whether it wanted to review the matter. It was agreed to refer the matter back to the
board, notwithstanding that there was no evidence that there had been any
unfairness in past consideration. It
could be a candidate for the downs tour.
Date of downs tour: 5 September 2011 at 1730.
Date of next consultative committee meeting: 31 October
2011 at 1800.
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 03 Nov, 2010 21:45:32Ebbisham Lane
the clerk reiterated that, following a meeting, the county council
were adamant that maintenance would be only as a bridleway, notwithstanding the current status.
Apologies from the clerk for failing to follow up the undertaking to
look into the possibility of a notice of repair, which would
therefore be discussed at the next meeting of the board.
Langley Vale Road: we
suggested that the horse margin could be subject to a traffic
regulation order restricting cycling, perhaps only during the
training hours in the morning. The CTC put the case
for allowing continuing use by cyclists, and suggested signing the
top end of the margin of the need to look out for horses when
descending. The preference was for new signage to warn of the
danger, and to follow up with further measures if that was
Hack ride through
Warren Woodland: work
is now programmed to begin this winter, to open up the lost hack ride
from Old London Road through the Warren woodland to terminate near
concerts: further discussion
about the disruption arising from some of the post-racing concerts.
Hack sand track:
three quotes were to be obtained to upgrade the sand track, of which
one had been received in the order of £15-20k: this was to relay
sand and add four additional areas of drainage. Alex noted that the
current situation was being managed, which was welcome, and looked
forward to developments.
the board had merely noted a report on the origin of the hatched area
designation, agreeing continuing maintenance in accordance with the
management plan, which would never achieve a return to favourable
condition suitable for hack riding (which, of course, was the point). We asked why hack riders could
not use that part of the area currently in use for winter training, since conditions
obviously permitted, and what changes would be required to the
management of the remainder of the hatched area to secure favourable
conditions: the racecourse representative didn't have an answer to
this, and we agreed to write with these questions to be put (again)
to the TGMB.
we adopted the trainers' representative's suggestion that a further
byelaw should provide that: "Any person who rides a cycle on the
Downs shall give way to persons on horseback and pedestrians."
The cyclists representative thought this would be unsatisfactory and
downs users should be trusted. It was suggested that the rules
should be consistent between public bridleways (where this was
already a requirement, under the Countryside Act 1968) and the authorised routes. The chairman was
concerned about delay to the new byelaw, but agreed to put the
proposal to the next meeting.
we suggested the need for further debate on the style and content of
the maps which will be displayed on the downs to replace the existing
byelaw noticeboards. A proposal was made that the boards should also
be double-sided. It was agreed there would be further consultation
before a decision was taken.
of next meeting: 4 July 2011.
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 12 Jul, 2010 22:13:47Ebbisham Lane
in the face of continuing unwillingness by Surrey CC to do any meaningful repairs, I suggested the conservators consider service of a repair notice.
Epsom and Ewell borough council is exploring introducing dog control
orders, but is concerned about enforcement.
plea for contractors to have planned arrangements for clearing up
glass after the event, which is problematic every year (noted by
Rupert Trevelyan). It was agreed to clarify the downskeepers’
powers to enforce byelaws on racing evenings.
Race for Life:
complaints about the organisers not ensuring a full clean-up after
the event, nor arranging for recycling. It’s planned that a
deposit will be taken from organisers of future major events, so that
all or part can be withheld in similar circumstances.
route across Warren Woods: asked why this new path, apparently
for the trainers’ benefit, was being cleared by the downskeepers,
rather than the training grounds team. Was told that it was also a matter of public safety. But really, the point had not been raised, and the downskeepers just ended up getting the short straw because no-one thought to ask.
Calendar of events:
agreed to put this on the council's website, in order to minimise conflict
Map of the downs:
a planned comprehensive map of the downs was circulated for comment.
This is intended to replace those currently shown on the byelaw
boards. Unfortunately, the map is intended both to provide legal
information and to be informative, but at present, it doesn’t quite
do either. We agreed to provide further comments subsequently,
within the next three weeks. It was suggested that each display
should have a ‘you are here’ marker.
cyclists’ representative John Bird offered to meet with horse
riders’ representatives to agree a plan of cycling routes on the
Plan: we asked about the extension of the plan to cover the golf
course. Surrey Wildlife Trust had conducted surveys of
invertebrates, flora and fauna, which were likely to be repeated
later in the year, with a report due in October.
Closure of subway:
Rupert Trevelyan confirmed that the subway would be closed only in
response to a police direction, and not simply in response to vague concerns about 'health & safety'.
comments were made about the appearance of the fencing, which must be
approved by the conservators, but Rupert Trevelyan said that the
fencing was owned by the racecourse, had been approved for many
years, and would be very costly to replace. Since the conservators' consent cannot be 'unreasonably withheld', that probably means that we'll have to put up with it for the forseeable future.
Marking hack rides:
it was thought that afternoon rides (marked with yellow) were being
confused with public footpaths (also yellow), and the aim was to
adopt a new colour for the former, although no decision had yet been
Sand track: a
report had been commissioned on the cost of full reinstatement of the
sand track at the foot of Six Mile Hill, upon which the conservators
would be able to make a decision. Maintenance had fallen behind
recently, which Bob Harding attributed to the demands of the Derby
and other racing days, but Alex Stewart said that after
reinstatement, the sand track would need regular maintenance if any investment was not to be wasted.
the TGMB does not consider that it has responsibility to deliver the
conditions necessary to enable hack riders’ use (whatever those conditions may be: no-one has ever said). Alex suggested that the
conservators needed to decide who had responsibility, and what
actions should be taken.
Date of next
meeting: 1st November 2010
Date of consultative
committee downs tour: 23rd August 2010, meeting in racecourse car
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 03 Nov, 2009 21:03:57
Lane: Steve Williamson, Surrey area highways manager, reports that the county
does not recognise this road as a route open to vehicles and aims to reclassify it as
a bridleway (for which purpose, it would need to apply to the magistrates' court). He says that a small programme of tree
management has been carried out, and the worst potholes are repaired, that a continuing breakdown of the asphalt can be expected, and that it is maintained as passable for cyclists, horse
riders and walkers. The committee agreed that this policy amounted to neglect, that the surface was convenient neither for cyclists nor riders, and asked the conservators to take a view and raise the matter with the highway authority.
sand track: officers are still in discussion with Andrew Cooper, secretary of the Training Grounds Management Board, about
responsibility for maintenance.
boards: £7,500 has been approved to be spent on 27 byelaw boards, the money coming from "section 106"
funds arising out of the new hotel on the downs. Designs for the boards will be presented to the consultative committee next year.
rides from the downs: there had been a misunderstanding about what was sought, and it was agreed that there should be further discussion about opportunities for hack
riders to use the equestrian crossing at Tattenham Corner, particularly since one option is entirely within the control of the conservators.
control: officers are working with Elmbridge Borough Council, which has introduced dog control
orders, and are exploring this possibility further. Strong emphasis on education of dog walkers, since legal measures tend to be ineffective on their own.
detecting: the designated areas for metal detecting are essentially coincident with the hack rides
and areas: we expressed concern that the decision was made on areas open to metal detecting
without consideration of effect on particular downs users (i.e. hack riders). Agreed (I think) that impact on downs users
needs to be considered when making policy decisions.
a byelaw is proposed to control cycling, but would allow cycling on 'designated routes'. It was agreed to consider further what routes should be
designated for cycling, since the new byelaw would be unenforceable
if it’s not clear where cyclists can legitimately go. Designated routes would certainly include public bridleways and roads, but what about the cycle route from Rifle Butts Alley to the tea hut roundabout?
management strategy: asked for the impact of events on particular downs users,
and whether event will exclude access for other users, to be considered in the
Management Plan for golf course: plans are definitely in hand for the
long-awaited update to cover management of the golf course lands, but it won’t start until April 2010 when funds are available, and should be concluded by October.
strategy: agreed to review action plan, and consider strategy when providing
advice to the conservators.
of next meeting
: 26th July 2010 at 1800.
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 13 Jul, 2009 21:20:42
David Smith, former chief executive of the council and ex officio clerk to the conservators, will retire shortly, and
not return to the council after a prolonged absence owing to ill health. From David’s point of view, it’s surely the right decision. Best wishes to David in his retirement, and
our thanks for his tremendous help over the years, and his readiness to
listen to hack riders’ views.
Leaflet for hack riders: the final version of this is still not resolved, and the version which appears (well hidden) on the council's website remains somewhat unsatisfactory.
Events on the downs: there will be two windows of opportunity to apply for approval of events each
year, but the number of events will be limited in number. The criteria
will be addressed in a paper to be taken by the 28th July meeting of conservators. The conservators are contemplating charging for cleaning up after
events (thanks to the rubbish left after this year's Race for Life): I asked for refundable deposits to be considered, to avoid an adverse impact on
Ebbisham Lane: the continuing poor state of the road will be raised with Surrey county council's new
local highway engineer. The council has done no maintenance on the road for years.
Sand track: claimed to be harrowed once a week, but it had been neglected
during the Derby season. Investigating
machinery to pick flints. There's a willingness to top up the sand, but structural problems need to be resolved before this is done.
Byelaw boards: funding for these is unlikely to be resolved until
at least September, and until then, officers are unwilling to commit to the style and content. I asked if they could work up some designs to minimise delay once funding was confirmed later this year.
Enforcement of byelaws: two new downskeepers are being recruited, after which the rotas will be reviewed in consultation with staff: they plan to present options for
better enforcement of byelaws on Sunday afternoons to the next but one conservators’ meeting (even though they promised at the meeting exactly a year ago to do just that). Agreed to consider scope to make byelaw to
control cycling on the downs, since the conservators have already agreed to amend the byelaws to deal with radio-controlled (model) cars.
Concert: no (pay for entry) concert is likely to take place for the next two or
three years, owing (it was said) to the recession.
Dog control: Epsom and Ewell council is working with other Surrey boroughs to
develop a county-wide strategy on dog control, with a small number of essential messages to be put across to dog
owners. They will consider whether a dog
control order is needed for the downs, to enforce a requirement for dogs on leads. Will be considered further at 28th July
conservators’ meeting. Meanwhile, downskeepers’ vehicles
are now equipped with cameras, microphones and trackers, to record incidents and provide greater protection for staff dealing with them.
Metal detecting: officers will send a revised map showing the areas authorised at for metal detecting (which we suspect coincide almost exactly with the hack areas), and say they will take seriously any concerns expressed in response.
Hatched area: We had asked the secretary to the Training Grounds Management Board, Andrew Cooper, how conditions had changed since the concessionary use of the hatched area was negotiated in 1984? No-one could recall that far back (pity David Smith has left), although Andrew goes back to 1993. The rough area east of Walton Road was described as being in as bad
physical condition as it ever has been, and unfit for use. The area west of Walton Road is maintained
by grounds staff and used for racehorse training in winter: the TGMB’s view is that use by hack riders would make it unfit for training use
— but that's putting the cart before the horse.
We had also asked what conditions would now permit such use? Andrew avoided answering this question, but Simon Dow said he would be happy to adopt clear criteria for determining whether the hatched area should be available
And we asked who was responsible for maintaining the area to
secure conditions fit for use?
The TGMB said they were not
responsible for maintaining the east area — that was for the downskeepers, who were responsible for cutting the area under the Habitat Management
The TGMB had met that very morning and reaffirmed its
In a continuing discussion a little later, the chairman (and chairman of the conservators) Jean Smith said that the “purpose of the 1984 Act is the preservation of
the racing industry”. That is doubtless her view, and it explains why the conservators act as a rubber stamp for the racecourse, but it's clearly not the purpose of the Act, which appoints the conservators to "preserve the Downs so far as possible in their natural state of beauty". Maintaining a successful industry is certainly a proper economic objective for the council, but it's not why the council tax payers of
Epsom fund the conservators to the tune of nearly £200k per annum.
Date of next meeting: 3 November 2009
Date of downs tour: 24 August 2009
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 22 Nov, 2008 08:49:44
A rather frosty meeting, overshadowed by the absence of the long-time clerk to the conservators, David Smith, who is ill in hospital.Hack riders' leaflet
: this is the last of a series of leaflets for downs users to be agreed, and all of them should be published soon on the council's website
. The hack riders' leaflet will include a new map of the hack rides and areas on the downs, and should be easier to read than the present
one.Rides on Juniper Hill
: lots more work has been done by the downskeepers to open up long-blocked rides on Juniper Hill. Following on from the opening of the north-south ride late in the summer, the east-west ride has also been opened up, which strikes out west from 'bridleway 65' and heads across the hill to emerge on the grassland on the crest of the hill, with views across to Six Mile Hill. Both these rides will be marked with posts in the near future. Opening up the east-west ride is expected to deliver nature conservation benefits too, reversing some of the scrub encroachment which had been threatening the grassland. Our thanks to the downskeepers for their hard work on this.Race for Life
: this fund-raising event will take place next year on 28 June 2009. The chairman confirmed that the event represents 'a significant
degree of interference with the rights of the public of access for air
and exercise' (as described in the proviso to section 10(2) of the 1984 Act), meaning that the concert can now only significantly interfere with public access on just four days. That will be a challenge: after all, the concerts will take place on two days, leaving just two days for assembly and disassembly to the extent that what remains no longer constitutes a significant interference.Concert
: we gave one month's notice of some legal questions
about the board of conservators' powers to authorise the concerts, but even so, the chairman was unable to provide any answers, and batted them over to Andrew Cooper from the racecourse. He sensibly sent them straight back, pointing out that questions about the conservators' own powers were for the conservators, not the racecourse. So we'll have another go, in correspondence.Bridleway 65 diversion
: Andrew also agreed that the gap
at the northern end of the diversion looked a bit narrow, and will see what adjustments can be made. The downskeepers will re-erect the 'racehorses only' sign in a more sensible location, and Andrew is to consider whether a baffle is needed to stop horses in training escaping through the gaps out on to Epsom Lane North.The hatched area
: the chairman reported that the Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB) had met on September 8, when it was 'their unanimous view that the Hatched Ground should not be used for riding after noon, due to concerns over its current conditions and because such opening up would prejudice the maintenance and use of the training gallops'. So we've asked the TGMB to tell us:
* how conditions have changed since the agreement in 1984 that the hatched area should be used by hack riders 'when conditions permit';
* what conditions would allow such use;
* who is responsible for maintaining the area to enable conditions fit for use?
After all, the 1984 agreement was surely given in good faith, in anticipation that the hatched area would be fit for use at least some of the time. Yet, oddly, it never has been. Andrew admitted that some of the hatched area would be used for training over the winter: odd, really, that it's fit for training purposes, but not for hacking?
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2008 22:01:12
Juniper Hill: The tour visited Juniper Hill, partly to look
at the hack rides: the centre hack north-south ride has been much
improved thanks to the efforts of the downskeepers, but the east-west
hack ride remains inaccessible for the time being. It turned out that
some members of the committee had never ventured onto Juniper Hill, and
Nick Owen, the nature conservation adviser to the Conservators, took
the opportunity to show how much promise this area has as a relic of
unimproved downland. But good management calls for regular scrub
clearance, and there was a consensus that opening up the east-west hack
ride would be good for biodiversity as well as riders.
Photo: the consultative committee on Juniper Hill
The tour also looked at the sand track, along the bottom of Six Mile
Hill, which remains in need of maintenance at its extreme eastern end,
and in the vicinity of Nohome Farm at its western end.
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2008 21:58:53
The hatched area: We asked the chairman for feedback from the special meeting of the Training Grounds Management Board on 22 April, which apparently was dedicated to discussing use of the
hatched area. All the chairman could say, tight-lipped, was that no
conclusion was reached. Pressed to say what might have been discussed,
she added that further legal advice was being sought. So, it seems that
the TGMB is wriggling hard to avoid reaching any decision that might
involve re-opening the hatched area to hack riders, and is
reconsidering its legal room for manoeuvre.
Habitat action plan: We commented that the plan makes no
provision for maintenance of the downs north of Grand Stand Road, and
ignores the public rights of access to the downs on foot and on
horseback. The plan will be taken into account, but not the determining
factor, in drawing up a four year action plan for habitat management.
The action plan should set out plans to restore to use the various hack
rides and areas which are now difficult or impossible to use because of
Hack riders' leaflet: This is close to publication, and will be a substantial improvement on the present one.
Events on the downs: We obtained a commitment to look at
better ways of publicising events which take place on the downs, and
which might interfere with riding: for example, the Cancer Research
Race for Life was held on 29 June, but there was little advance warning
to hack riders of the event, and plenty of tape fluttering in the wind
on the day, enough to make most riders turn round and head home. The
conservators will look at better notices (in places where hack riders
might see them) and placing details on the website.
Next meeting: the downs tour takes place on 21 August 2008.
Consultative CommitteePosted by Hugh Craddock 02 Oct, 2008 21:54:25
A stunning turn-out for this meeting, almost standing room only, but goodness knows why, because nothing much
was happening. What might have proved interesting was the expected circulation of the draft habitat management
plan, but illness has delayed drafting, and it wasn't ready. The plan should, among other things, set out an
action plan for cutting scrub on the hack rides and hack areas.
Bridleway diversions: Surrey County Council has made an order to divert various public rights of way
on the downs, including several public bridleways. Generally, the effect is to regularise existing use, and in
any case, the statutory hack rides are unaffected. One benefit is to extend bridleway 65 further north alongside
Epsom Lane North, almost as far as Tattenham Crescent. So it was disappointing to hear that the orders cannot
yet be confirmed, because one objector is objecting to the diversion of that same path. I understand that the
objector is concerned about loss of public rights across Six Mile Hill. But because there is public access on
foot to all of the downs, and the old route will remain a hack ride, it's difficult to see the purpose of the
objection. If it's not withdrawn, the diversion order will have to be referred to the Planning Inspectorate.
Ebbisham Lane: Last month, I noted that Ebbisham Lane had
again been made passable for traffic as far as the downs car park. At the conservators' meeting, suspicions
were raised that Surrey County Council would like to downgrade the road to a bridleway. There could be only
one reason for that: to reduce maintenance liabilities (not that there's much maintenance at the moment).