ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 21 Jan, 2015 21:18:10
Management Board: the board had confirmed that the hatched area
remained unfit for public use (Ed: this was the only item apparently
thought to be worth reporting from the board’s meetings. The
meetings must be very short indeed.)
Hack sand track:
no further progress, with vague commitment to pursuing a meeting.
flooding issue resolved with Thames Water accepting liability. Some
delays in closing negotiations on lease.
Joint action group met on 13 January with good attendance, and will
meet again in February. Nothing will be resolved overnight, and
resolution will demand staff resources. Circumstances of downs are
different to those of other open spaces in borough. The trainers’
representative had attended the joint action group meeting and spoke
in favour of using social media. He said that the downs did need a
distinctive solution, and trainers’ staff were at risk. A local
authority member feared that rigorous controls could divert dog
walkers to other sensitive sites, and this called for borough wide
Epsom Golf Club
unauthorised development: alluded to, but not described in
Pipe repair works
near the Rubbing House: works are being undertaken in
January by Thames Water, on the crossing near the Rubbing House: likely to conclude soon (Ed: but the crossing remains closed for now).
had been a long debate at the previous meeting. The racecourse
wished to revert to its previous policy on barbecues, which was not
to encourage barbecues during events (Ed: but, reading between the
lines, not to actively enforce against them).
Budget for 2015−16:
the treasurer noted, in response to the chairman’s question, that
the annual budget was drawing down £20,000 from reserves annually,
and it would be necessary to increase precepts or reduce expenditure
by 2016−17. Surprisingly, no-one thought fit to ask whether it would be wise to reduce expenditure sooner in anticipation, or even to challenge the above-inflation rise in the budget for the next year. A question was asked about the absence of a sum for
insurance, and it was thought (requiring verification) that the cost
was taken on by the council in its general policy and recharged in a
separate line item for ‘insurance recharges’. An increase of 2%
in budget was approved.
Code of conduct
signs: there were now five signs in place.
Memorial Wood: the inaugural tree planting event took place in
December, but there had been confusion about where to park for a
local shuttle. Officers were asked to suggest that the Woodland
Trust should provide marshals in future. The local authority had not
yet approved the Trust’s traffic management plan.
Staff: the head
downskeeper said that all staff had now received appropriate training
in first aid and horse handling, as well as field skills.
various extensions to the fencing season, enabling the racecourse to
retain fencing between meetings, were approved without comment (Ed:
the BHS takes the view that these extensions are unlawful, not being
authorised by the local Act).
Revision of the
Epsom and Walton Downs Habitat Management Plan: the plan itself
had apparently been circulated late (Ed: not yet seen by me).
The plan will be concluded after the next meeting, and placed on the
website. There was no substantive discussion, apart from a question
about bird boxes.
Review of Walton
Road tarred surface: the racecourse thought this had been a
complete success, with 95% preference for it. Signs had been
improved at the bottom. Ends of railings had been taped to improve
safety. There was no comment. (Ed: the racecourse tarred Walton Road, and it saw every thing that it had made, and, behold, it was very good.)
Old London Road
crossing draining works: two meetings had come close to
cancellation owing to waterlogging, and the racecourse sought
approval for drainage works to the crossing and the necessary digging
and fencing for that purpose. The racecourse's report said that the crossing
was not public highway (Ed: this is incorrect: the crossing is a
public highway, but is privately maintainable by the racecourse).
The works will involve a covered drain across the north side of the
crossing (continuous with the rails), a drain across the racecourse,
and a discharge into a shallow soakaway with surface grill on the
south-west side of the crossing. The head downskeeper, on the
contrary, said that there were indeed gullies and soakaways, which
were blocked but could be restored at much lower cost: however, he
said that the highway authority had disclaimed responsibility. The
trainers’ representative said that current drainage arrangements
were inadequate to deal with intensive periods of rain. Officers
said that Old London Road (i.e. the route inside Tattenham
Corner) was adopted, except for the racecourse crossing, and they
would discuss whether the existing gullies were in line for
renovation. The clerk said that she would not wish to rely on the
highway authority renovating gullies in time for the racing season.
A council member said that the highway authority had taken on a new
gully cleansing contractor, and her experience was that the response
time was good. Another said that there was insufficient detail about
It was agreed to
approve the works subject to clearance of further details by the
chairman, clerk and head downskeeper, and officers would write to the
Proposed tree works
by Epsom Golf Club: the borough tree officer had now commented
that there was no mention in the submission of the Habitat Management
Plan, and no map. The creation of chalk grassland could be
advantageous but lacked assurance of management. The tree officer
proposed a site visit to assess the proposals, but said they should
form part of a long term management plan. The Lower Mole Countryside
Management Service said that works should better be carried out as
part of regular management, rather than a big job once in a while.
The Conservation Officer agreed that it would be helpful to take a
more holistic approach to management of the land. It was agreed to
delegate a decision to the chairman following the site visit.
Epsom Downs winter
forest – proposal to sell Christmas trees: a rather bizarre
proposal for selling Christmas trees on the downs. Unsurprisingly,
the proposal was rejected, though only after a significant
references: the committee clerk’s carefully compiled list was
briefly noted and dismissed.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 13 Oct, 2014 20:49:03
TGMB: met on 3 October. Approval was given for refurbishment of the fibre sand track, which was due to begin on 3 November.
Dog control: the clerk said that the legal advice commissioned by the TGMB (and annexed to the report on 'matters arising') was not something she could entirely agree with, nor did it focus on softer elements such as owner behaviour. [Ed: oddly enough, this was precisely what I had said in an email copied to the clerk the previous day.] Officers had not been able to dedicate time to the issue, and legislation was changing. The neighbourhood inspector was keen to enforce dog control issues and was aware of the detail. Legal advice was needed from the council legal team.
Code of conduct signs: the final sign was awaiting delivery, before installation. One of the original signs (by the Rubbing House) has been removed to rectify problems with the production.
Hack sand track: it was reported that the consultative group had disputed the Levy Board’s view that the sand track was under the same management responsibility as the horse walks, and the racecourse manager agreed.
Downs House: the legal process was expected to continue.
Review of habitat management plan: a final document would be presented in January.
Metal detecting: a retention of the present annual fee for detectorists at £35 was agreed.
Mid-year budget monitoring: the mid-year position was slightly over-budget, owing to an £11k pension contribution and maintenance of the toilet block. Next year, the proposal was for a 2% increase in contributions, which would generate an additional £7k, and £16½k would be used from reserves. As reserves continued to decline, the board would need to examine how to stem the losses. The chairman asked about car park repairs at £1k, but was told this was ‘nothing’. A statement in the notes about responsibility for repair of the hack sand track was corrected. No discussion took place on the proposed precept increase (which was a guideline for the treasurer’s budgeting for next year, and not a resolution).
Chafer grubs: an infestation on the downs was causing concern, and chemical control was both costly and environmentally challenging; the racecourse track however is treated chemically, at a cost of around £5k. The grub causes damage to the turf, and prefers fine cut grass. The infestation was reported as the worst ever. Crows feed on the grubs, causing the grass to be laid bare. Investigations continue into what measures can be taken at reasonable cost.
Proposed events on the downs: a number of events had sought approval, including the Race for Life in 2015. One member rehearsed concerns about impact of events on the downs, and resources used to manage the downs. It was not clear whether other sites could host the Race for Life. The event had become an annual institution, regardless of effect. But the trainers’ representative said that this year’s event had been managed very well, and had not caused disruption. Officers said that another Race for Life took place in Guildford. The organiser was very flexible, including a set-up before the trainers’ occupation of the downs (and a down-time during that occupation). The chairman said that refusal threatened a backlash. The racecourse pointed out [Ed: for the first time in my recollection] that a few weeks earlier, the downs hosted 100,000 visitors, and contrasted that with 5,000 for the Race.
Downs tour: concrete deposited on the edge of the golf course, spotted on the board’s downs tour, had not yet been cleared. The unauthorised development of the practice area has been addressed in writing, and the golf course has suggested they were not aware of a problem. The golf course will also be told not to allow fencing to be erected by sponsors on event days.
Speed hump on Walton Road: this had been proposed for approval, retrospectively, to reduce cycle speeds on the descent of Six Mile Hill. Officers said that the speed hump needed clear marking and advance warning. The need for a hump was agreed, and the TGMB was asked to liaise with officers on the signage. The racecourse pointed out that the solution would need to be suitable for all downs users, but then went on to question whether additional humps were needed further up the hill.
Barbecues on the downs: the racecourse was struggling to regulate barbecues at the moment; the racecourse said the proposal was a reversion to earlier practice, with resources to enforce the rule. There would be a dedicated team to deal with the issue. Officers said it was impossible to enforce a prohibition on race days, and there was concern that the public would assume that the derogation was available on other days, such as music nights. One member, supported by the chairman, insisted that there should be no derogation for barbecues on race days. The clerk said no encouragement should be given to other forms of fire, but the byelaws allowed only for consent to be given to light fires. In the event, approval was given by a majority of 4:2 (the only two council members present) to implement on a trial basis, using raised barbecues.
Minutes of the consultative committee: the chairman asked if members had asked to read the minutes (circulated late), and there were no comments. [Ed: much rustling of papers followed] The chairman observed how much the board appreciated the work of the consultative committee, then moved on. [Ed: the consultative committee would have much preferred that at least something of its deliberations — anything really — were aired before the board, than that tributes were paid to its work by a board which simply ignores it. Though to be fair, the consultative committee's comments on the maintenance responsibility for the horse walks were reported earlier in the agenda.]
Works on the golf course: the works were to be tabled at the next meeting, as they required further consultation.
Dates of next meetings: 21 January, 15 April, 17 June and 7 October 2015.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Jun, 2014 21:12:53
Chairman: today’s was the first meeting of the new
local government year, following the elections, which called for the board to
elect a chairman and vice-chairman. As
usual, Jean Smith was the only nominee for chairman, and Andrew Chairman was
TGMB/dog control: last met on 15 May and discussed dog
control. Trainers reported daily mishaps,
and the TGMB thought that the current byelaw was insufficient and required
amendment to keep dogs on leads. It was
described as absurd that dogs were allowed to run loose while horses were in
training. The chairman said that a new
byelaw (requiring dogs to be on leads before noon) would be costly and lengthy,
and it was necessary to be sure that the new byelaw would be effective. Enforcement would be difficult. Trainers were asked to log all incidents to
raise understanding of the problem, with a report to the next meeting. The chairman asked if the TGMB would share
the costs of seeking a new byelaw or dog control order? Other members were supportive of tighter
controls. The clerk said that there were
insufficient resources to enforce.
Publicity would be used to raise awareness, but breaches were often committed
by people from elsewhere. The council
lacked resources to follow up breaches. The
chairman asked whether there was support for a ban on dogs before noon, but the
question was not addressed by the board.
The trainers’ representative said that more effective control was a
prerequisite to the continuing status of the downs as a leading training
ground; there was also concern about dogs ‘kept’ on an extendable lead. The vice-chairman noted that the existing
byelaw already required a dog to remain under proper control and avoid
disturbing any animal, and that the question was one of enforcement rather than
drafting; however, the clerk thought that a more clearly worded byelaw or a dog
control order would be easier to prosecute (but said she was willing to
prosecute it if resources were provided).
Officers were asked to review options again, including the possibility
of employing an enforcement officer.
Officers thought that dog control needed to be reviewed in the context
of the borough as a whole.
Code of conduct signs: officers reported that two new
signs were being made and due to be supplied shortly. Likely candidates were bottom of Ebbisham
Lane and Langley Vale, but the board wasn't specifically asked to endorse these locations.
Hack sand track: in the light of no response from the
levy board, a meeting had resolved that the vice-chairman should write again,
but no reply had been received.
Downs House: Bidwells had reverted to previously
interested bidders and discussions were taking place with two candidates.
Land at rear of Rosebery Road: it was confirmed that
a neighbouring householder had cleared some scrub on the downs, and had offered
to pay for replanting. There was a brief
discussion as to whether the matter should be taken further [Ed: without any sense of irony that such
action might be contemplated here, but was apparently untenable in relation to
dog control]. It was agreed to
accept the offer of replanting. [Ed: presumably the other householders who haven't admitted anything won't pay anything. Though quite why these householders are expected to tolerate the growth of ever denser scrub, where there used to be none, so depriving them of their views of the downs, is entirely beyond me.]
Tarred surface on Walton Road: planning permission
had been granted for an extension, and works would begin in a few weeks.
Final accounts: John, the former borough treasurer
familiar at previous years' discussion of the accounts, had retired. There was approximately a £20k excess of
expenditure over income, attributed to the replacement downskeepers’ hut. A member asked about the outturn expenditure
on noticeboards compared with budget: this was explained as owing to the code
of conduct signs, but with a counterbalancing receipt through s.106 funds. A question about equipment and facility hire
was thought to be attributable to the replacement temporary cabin while the
downskeepers’ hut was rebuilt. A
question was asked about the Tattenham Corner Road public conveniences (which
were costing £20k per annum). The
recommendations for disposal of the accounts were accepted.
Discussion moved on to pension contributions, where increased
contributions were sought. These
increases could be spread over a longer period if the council accepted
responsibility for the board as the parent body: a decision on this would be
taken in the next few weeks by the council’s strategy and resources committee.
Downskeepers’ hut: an opening event was to be
planned (later agreed to be combined with the downs tour).
Derby: concern was noted that the downskeepers had
had to clear up in place of the contractors.
The head downskeeper reported this year as ‘very bad’, and said there
was still glass on the downs. Officers
reported that the events manager was aware of the problem and wanted to avoid
the problems in future years. The
racecourse had provided a report —
build-up went roughly to schedule, with mitigating measures to reduce impact on
the trainers. Ladies’ Day saw growth in
grandstand subscription. Saturday had
started with poor mid-morning weather, which had affected numbers on the
Hill. Ten arrests had been made in line
with previous years. The racecourse
recognised that the waste management and litter clearance was ‘seriously disappointing’
and these issues were under investigation.
A member asked what financial restitution would take place — the racecourse said that it would
look at this. The chairman said that the
arrangements in the Jockey Club room on Derby Day to which she had been invited
were ‘magnificent’. A member commented
on the poor behaviour experienced in the Blue Riband restaurant during Ladies’
Day. [Ed: indeed, much of the discussion about the Derby focused on the
experiences of various members in accepting the hospitality kindly provided
by the racecourse. Presumably the
members all consider such hospitality compatible with their responsibility for
regulating the racecourse’s management of the downs? Or perhaps they make a corresponding payment to charity?]
Downs tour: a board members’ downs tour was scheduled
for 4 August at 14:30.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 23 Apr, 2014 08:22:41
Langley Vale First World War Centenary Wood: a presentation was given by the Woodland Trust. The Trust is a member of the Imperial War Museum’s First World War centenary partnership. Langley Vale Wood (an interim name) is the largest proposed woodland creation site, and its purchase has been completed. It’s 250 hectares in area. and will accommodate 200,000 trees, but 40% of the site will remain unplanted, and many of those trees will be planted to restore existing hedgerows or create new green lanes. Views will be retained and accessibility will be retained. Open space will be managed as wild flower meadows on chalk grassland habitat, using grazing on large parts of the site. Poppies will be a dominant theme, which will call for some arable cultivation. There will be a designated memorial area consistent with the natural features, although the design has not yet been done. The site will be open to the public, with several kilometres of hard surfaced paths, horse and cycle paths. Some paths will be mown, and waymarked routes will be established. There will be interpretative features and volunteering opportunities. The trust wants to work with schools and community groups, e.g. on tree planting. A tidy-up will begin now, removing pheasant pens, litter, fencing. Some wildflower seeds will be sown this summer, with initial planting in the autumn on a community planting day. Site infrastructure will be installed in 2015–16, and the memorial area established in 2016. The farm will continue to be managed on an agricultural basis for the next 12 months. The site is technically open to the public, but access is not being promoted.
The project cost is £9 million, with a total cost for all four sites of £20 million. The local appeal had already reached half way (£50,000), and discussions were underway with local businesses. Local funding would leverage ten times as much national support.
Asked about existing woodland, the Trust said there was extensive hazel coppice on the site, and this would be managed (though not necessarily all of it, owing to resource constraints). The Trust expected parking to be accommodated off Headley Road, where sight lines for traffic were good: this conclusion had been influenced by discussions with Surrey as highway authority. There would be no full-time staff on site, save for a possible visitor centre as regards which decisions were yet to be made. There could be a strong volunteering presence. Visitor numbers were expected to decline after the centenary period.
Walton Road: planning permission was awaited for surfacing works on Langley Vale Road.
Langley Vale residents: concern had been expressed by residents about trainers’ practices. A meeting had taken place, and there had been a desire on the part of local residents for more information [Ed: this wasn’t explained further], and a reminder to trainers to discourage distractions (e.g. smoking) by riders.
Code of conduct signs: two additional signs had been ordered, after which further consultation will take place on siting (one is likely near Langley Vale village).
Hack sand track: the clerk apologised that matters had not been moved forward, and had scheduled a meeting on 15 May with the relevant parties to seek a solution.
Equestrian crossing opposite the entrance to the Queen’s Stand: one option was to recycle the existing signs on Burgh Heath Road, where they now had little use as the trainers did not use the road, although it was said that the signs could still confer a benefit on a livery stable. However, it was suggested that the signs would not be appropriate to the Ashley Road site.[Ed: Indeed: the signs warn of the presence of riders on the road, with manually controlled alternate flashing yellow lights, which were presumably operated manually by whichever yard was intended to benefit from them. They are completely inappropriate to the crossing on Ashley Road, so there’s not the slightest chance of their being resited.]
Downs House: the marketing agents, Bidwells, have revisited the original bids and invited new expressions of interest. A report was expected to a special meeting of Strategy and Resources committee in May to seek authority on how to proceed.
Review of Epsom Downs Habitat Management Plan: will be reviewed by a borough council officer.
Signposting of the Round the Borough Hike and Bike route: it was agreed to mark the route on its circuit of the downs. It was stated that the route followed only public rights of way [Ed: which is incorrect].
Downskeepers’ hut: this had now been commissioned. It was asked whether there was any identification of the hut’s role, and it was confirmed that details had been painted on the structure. The Lower Mole Countryside Project would consider whether more permanent signage could be provided. A formal opening would be proposed. Apparently, the handbasin is too small for the burly downskeepers, so the chairman wants it replaced.
Events on the downs: six events had been submitted for approval, and were approved [Ed: with hardly a peep from the board, save that one member said she’d refuse permission for the lot, but took it no further. This included the Race for Life: no doubt there will be much hand wringing later this year about next year’s Race, but it will still end up being approved].
Constitution of consultative committee: the clerk noted that a working group was formed in 2012, and had subsequently met with the clerk and chairman, before proposals were brought to the consultative committee in March this year. It was noted that the promoters of the 1984 Bill had given a commitment to establish such a committee to include (apart from the statutory interests, only) representatives of horse riders for the purposes of consultation on the future management of the rides, tracks and paths for horse riding.
Angela Clifford gave a short presentation on the purpose of the revision of the constitution, including to review the membership of the committee.
Proposal A, on whether the committee supports or advises the board, and proposal B, which extended the committee’s remit to consider appearance and biodiversity, were thrown open for discussion. The vice chairman said that there was no need to review the objects in the current constitution. Another member agreed, saying that appearance and biodiversity were too prescriptive. Proposal B was therefore rejected, and proposal A appeared to fall without a word being said either way.
Proposal C, on extending membership to local residents’ associations, was discussed. One member proposed to sustain the present position. The chairman said that EDMAC had made a strong case to be included [Ed: the Epsom Downs Model Aircraft Club had written to the board objecting to its exclusion from membership of the consultative committee], but the clerk boldly said she had concerns about including one group without consideration of others [Ed: this appeared to overlook that the report had presented various groups’ membership, including EDMAC’s, as a fait accompli, but this seemed to be a step too far for the board]. It was agreed to make no change to membership. Proposal D (consequential changes to those invited to attend) was therefore rejected as unnecessary. However, this was later clarified to include, among those invited to attend, the additional bodies originally lined up for membership.
The chairman said that any issues identified by the consultative committee meetings were brought up to the board efficiently and effectively, and nothing it said was ignored. There would therefore be no disadvantage to the committee by rejecting changes.
Proposal G, to codify practice for personal representation of specific matters identified by the committee at the next board meeting, was endorsed by one member, and the chairman said this would be sensible [Ed: this was odd, since the chairman had been adamant at the consultative committee meeting that it was entirely unnecessary]. This was agreed.
Proposal F, on requisition of special meetings, the chairman said that she could use discretion to bring matters before the committee. The clerk expressed concern about additional meetings and the resource necessary. A member said that the status quo was best. Proposal F therefore was rejected.
It was also decided to retain the quorum at three members.
One member said, belatedly, that she wanted to thank the committee for its work on the constitution.
[Ed: so there we are: eighteen months of admittedly desultory analysis by the working group, with virtually nothing to show for it. Pity that no-one said they wanted to ‘maintain the status quo’ at the beginning of the exercise.]
Minutes of the consultative committee: these had been circulated, but there were no comments. [Ed: which sums it up really: the chairman couldn’t see any need to mention anything at all worth mentioning arising from the last consultative committee meeting.]
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Oct, 2013 20:40:14
TGMB: had met on
Tuesday 15 October, and the only item to report was confirmation that
there was no change in its view on use of the hatched area.
the permanent saddling boxes secured planning consent in September,
and construction work will commence on 28 October, due to be complete
opposite the entrance to Queen’s Stand: there had been some
refurbishment work, but the width of the crossing was judged
insufficient. There might be some s.106 funding available for works.
Code of conduct
signs: the new signs should be delivered on 28 October, but will
then need to be installed.
racecourse still working with Surrey Highways, but some issues need
to be addressed internally by the racecourse.
Drainage works on
roundabouts: there were delays to the works at Buckles Gap owing
to concluding the legal process involving the golf club. A
geotechnical investigation had been concluded at the Grand Stand Road
roundabout, and works estimated to cost £56,000 were likely to be
carried out this year. However, conservators’ consent would be
required to works on the adjacent downs: it was agreed to assign
authority to the clerk, chairman and ward councillor.
sale was progressing well.
Tour of Britain
cycle race: was said to be successful, with much prior work with
the racecourse and others. Sportives (events taking place on the
highway) were becoming more commonplace, but did not need permission.
Up to 2–3,000 people could be involved, but there was no
regulation, and not necessarily a governing sports body in control.
[Ed: there appeared to have been a recent event which had
attracted up to 2,000 cyclists and had caused ill feeling in local
communities as well as among downs users.] The public assumed
that the events were formally sanctioned. It was proposed to
establish a working party to look at events which were using the
facilities (particularly car parks) or highways, although it was
accepted that they could not necessarily be halted: this proposal was agreed.
Surrey was consulting on a new event strategy, which might involve
lobbying to introduce laws to regulate sportives. One member
suggested closing the car parks (this would require advance awareness
of the event). Another event was expected in November.
Hack sand track:
a meeting had been requested with the Horse Racing Levy Board to
assess responsibility for maintenance and reinstatement, but it had
been slow to respond.
monitoring report: current year expenditure of £371,000 was
compared to a budget of £343,000, but the excess was mainly
accounted for by the contribution to the replacement of the
downskeepers’ hut. There had been some additional expenditure on
maintenance of the toilet block. A question was asked about the rise
in the electricity bill by £100. It was confirmed the budget of
£6,000 for the Derby gypsy site did not include proposals for toilet
provision lower down the agenda. The board was asked to identify
the main issues that should be addressed in the budget report in
January 2014: there weren’t any. It was agreed that an assumption
of a precept increase of 2% should be adopted for the purposes of
planning next year’s budget.
report: meetings with the hack riders and trainers were reported
and welcomed. A proposal to acquire a defibrillator was approved.
was reported that, “The Head Downskeeper and the Downs Manager have
successfully dealt with couple of recent incidents between user
groups, which if not resolved, had the potential to cause serious
health & safety concerns.” One related to a traveller driving a
pony and trap at speed across the downs, affecting a hack rider’s
horse: the person responsible had given an undertaking not to repeat,
although there had been a further sighting. The other related to a
jogger who had inconvenienced the trainers on several occasions: the
police had spoken to him, although it was said that he hadn’t
broken any byelaws. The trainers’ representative said that
incidents were on the rise because of the board’s inability to
enforce byelaws: he thought that the jogger had breached the byelaws,
because he had interfered with the trainers’ operations. He also
commented that the trainers were not ‘user groups’: under the
Act, he took the view that no member of the public could interfere
with the training of racehorses. The chairman said that trainers had
priority on the downs. The deputy clerk said that the terms of the
Act would be reviewed to see how it applied to these situations. One
member made a [Ed: predictable] call for more signage.
Officers reported difficulty in enforcing byelaws on the public
rights of way across the downs, quite apart from the general
difficulty of obtaining names and addresses.
programme: a programme of work was circulated in hard copy.
hut: work continued but had been delayed. Estimated completion
before Christmas, but certainly well overdue.
Proposed events on
the downs: proposals for four events were considered: Downs Young
Athletes Cross Country League (3 November, 1 December 2013, 23
February and 9 March 2014); Sunbeam MCC Pioneer Run (13 April 2014);
North Cheam Baptist Church Easter Service (20 April 2014); Cancer
Research UK Race For Life (29 June 2014). One member launched into a
broadside against the Race for Life, summarising that ‘enough’s
enough’. The trainers’ representative thought that the downs had
reached saturation point, and had the same concerns about the Race
for Life as the Tour of Britain cycling event. It was not just about
the impact of the event itself, but its effect in drawing people back
to the downs subsequently; the downs should be primarily for local
people. The deputy clerk said that the proposal could be rejected if
it did not comply with the downs’ policy, but that if the policy
was faulty, that should be reviewed; the Race for Life was a category
D event which should be considered on merits. Officers said that the
Race for Life organisers claimed that many local people took part in the
event. There was a similar event in Guildford. The racecourse said
that the golf club was content if the course was not used for
parking. The same member noted that the events were all being staged
on Sunday mornings, and there should be a willingness to demand later
times to avoid conflict with trainers: the trainers’ representative
supported a later start, after 10:00. He asked for a review of the
policy to address timing issues: a loose horse could easily lead to
accidents. The first three events were approved, but with the first
not to set up before 10:00. Discussion continued on the Race for
Life. Officers explained that car parking was stewarded and could be
arranged to avoid impact on the golf club. The organisers were keen
to mitigate and minimise disruption, and were sensitive to trainers’
needs. The chairman commented that the participants were not
necessarily so sensitive. The member asked how much damage was
caused? The racecourse said that damage would occur, and be more severe
if wet, but admitted that 120,000 people would congregate on the
downs for the Derby earlier in the month [Ed: refreshing honesty not previously admitted in this context]. The trainers’
representative said that changing the hours did not help: it was a
closed day for the trainers, and local people could not get around.
They were supportive of the cause, but not the event. The member
proposed a motion to refuse the event on grounds of disturbance to
trainers and local people: however, no other members supported her,
although the trainers’ representative said he sympathised with her
view. [Ed: although the member was apparently isolated in a vote, it must be added that no-one actively argued to the contrary: so it was far from clear what the rest of the board thought.] The event was therefore approved. It was suggested that a
brief should be prepared which the organisers could send to
participants: officers agreed to discuss with the organisers.
Downs tour notes:
it was noted that the TGMB didn’t currently have the funds to
extend the poly track as planned.
committee: the chairman asked if the board had any issues they
wished to raise on the minutes of the consultative committee. A meeting had taken place on the
constitution, which would be referred back to the consultative
committee before returning to the board. The chairman hoped the
board would agree that they valued the work of the consultative
committee even though not many comments were made: there were some murmurs of agreement, though no-one said anything further.
Metal detecting fees
and charges: the board agree to the increased charge of £35 for
an annual metal detecting licence. The deputy chairman asked whether
the present 20 licences should be increased in number. There was
demand for at least 30 licences. Officers explained that the number
had been capped because of latent demand. One member suggested 50
licences. It was agreed to raise the number of licences to 35 [Ed:
but without any discussion of impact on other downs users]
with a review next year.
facilities on the Gypsy Site during the Derby period: a proposal
was advanced for this purpose, but with concern about costs if the
equipment was returned damaged (an estimate of £7,500 was given).
The chairman asked whether the racecourse should pay for the
facilities, but it was observed that the board approved the existence
of the gypsy site each year. The proposal was declined, but it was
agreed that those using the site should be required to bring their
own facilities [Ed: it wasn’t clear how this requirement would
be enforced: will arriving gypsy families be challenged to bring out their portable conveniences for inspection?].
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 21 Jun, 2013 08:45:41
Arrived half an hour late owing to having absent-mindedly caught the wrong train at Vauxhall, ending up catching a 418 from Surbiton. Didn't seem to miss much: I'm told that the board was informed that discussions continue between the racecourse and the highways authority on Walton Road, and no news on the hack sand track.
Final accounts: recommendations on the accounts approved without discussion.
Downskeeper’s hut: this had been damaged during set-up for the Derby, but it was hoped to keep the hut going until replacement in September.
Issues arising from Derby meeting: the chairman said the downs looked ‘remarkably clean’ the next day. Another member commented on the report on broken glass. The contractor, CSP, had been slow to respond initially on this, but once problems had been identified, had got on with the job. The Derby meeting had been quieter than in 2012 (the racecourse had announced 120,000), although paid attendances were about the same. Part of the Lonsdale area had been unusable following rain earlier in the week. One member said the appearance of the marquees on the Tattenham Straight was aesthetically improved following the flattening works.
Saddling boxes: the racecourse had sought approval for permanent saddling boxes north of the Queen’s Stand (even if granted, 1984 Act consent and planning permission would still be needed from the Council). At present, the racecourse erects temporary boxes for the racing season, which are near the end of their life, and unsightly, and not favoured by trainers. Work would be done in time for the 2014 season if permission were given. The new boxes would be no taller than the present temporary boxes. Rules required that one-quarter of the boxes should be equipped with doors. A member described the finish facing the road as ‘horrible’, and asked about the render finish, suggesting that it should be natural timber. The chairman asked whether anyone was supporting that member, but it appeared not. The chairman said that the details of the finish could be discussed later, although it seemed that she had the planning committee in mind. The racecourse agreed to review the question of the finish, and the proposal was recommended to the council under the 1984 Act.
Round the Borough walk: permission had been sought for this event on the downs to take place on 7 September, which was agreed. A late application had been made for a sponsored treasure hunt on behalf of the Riding for the Disabled Association: the RDA had been unaware of the new procedures. This was also agreed.
And that was it. Finished at around 1900: except that the meeting continued with the public excluded (I almost said 'press and public', but it's a long time since the press can have attended these meetings) to discuss encroachments along Rosebery Road in Langley Vale.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 18 Apr, 2013 21:49:33
Downs House: the
clerk said the council’s strategy and resources committee had
appointed Bidwells as the agent to market the house, on the basis of
freehold or leasehold disposal, but with a strong preference for
retention for horse racing. Marketing will be launched at the Derby
Walton Road: no
arrangements had yet been decided, and two options were being
reviewed by the racecourse.
roundabouts: the county council was currently preparing a legal
agreement for the works to alleviate flooding at the roundabout at
Buckles Gap. Investigation into a remedial design for flooding at
the grandstand roundabout was expected to be concluded soon, but
uncertainty as to whether the work could be funded in the present
Tour of Britain
cycle race: the downs will host the start of the race on 21
September, notwithstanding the objections of the trainers. A working
group will be established to help organise the event, and to
co-ordinate its promotion.
Management Board: met on 18 February, attended by Nick Healey
from the county council to discuss highways issues including the
equestrian traffic lights on Ashley Road.
Management of the
downs: meetings had taken place involving all the downs managers,
including the golf course and the council officers, and more
effective arrangements had been agreed to be incorporated into the
a revised proposal, for rebuilding the downskeepers’ hut, at less
cost than the earlier proposal for a portable cabin, was approved, at
a cost of £86,000, of which £30,000 would be met from the precept
on the council and £21,000 from the conservators’ funds. It was
hoped to begin construction after the Derby, in time for the winter.
The Treasurer proposed that there should be a legal agreement, as the
building would be on racecourse land. [Regrettably, the new
building, although slightly larger than the present, will have no
improved facilities for visitor reception.]
events were approved for the year ahead: Welsh South East Combine
Pigeon Liberation (18 May, 17 and 24 August 2013, The Omni Terrier
Derby (25 August 2013), Epsom College Cross Country Event (21
November 2013), Tadworth Athletic Club ‘Tadworth 10’ (5 January
2014), Rotary Club of Banstead Sponsored Walk (11 May 2014). One
member expressed concern about the ‘destruction of our downs’
promoted by events involving up to 700 participants [Ed:
unaccountably, this member had nothing to say about the decision
to host the Tour of Britain cycle race, which will attract thousands.
And equally unaccountably, the conservators are for the first time
attempting to extract £900 in fees from the various event organisers, without any
legal basis for charging.] Questions were asked about the Race
for Life (30 June 2013), which was not before the board. It was
explained that the event had already been authorised, but the
organisers were aware of reservations regarding approval for 2014.
the chairman introduced the report for the 2012–13 year. Mention
was also made of the unveiling of the memorial on the downs, earlier
in the day, to Emily Davison.
agreement was given to “for consent under the Byelaws to bring
forward the start of the fencing period for the Upper Tattenham
Enclosure for the Derby festival to 7 May 2013.” The racecourse
wanted to start as early as possible. Access will continue to be
allowed to these areas: in particular, an entrance and exit to the
Lonsdale enclosure. The racecourse also wanted to keep the fencing
around the Lonsdale enclosure throughout the summer. This was on the
basis that fencing on the downs is unlawful under the byelaws, unless
authorised under the 1984 Act. Consent would save the racecourse
time and money. It was explained that the Lonsdale fencing could be
done in a weekend, the Upper Tattenham enclosure fencing in around
four to five days. One member pointed out that the fencing was ugly,
and continuously present during the summer: agreement each year meant
it became the norm. Another questioned whether the extension for the
Upper Tattenham enclosure was required because of the works: it
wasn’t. Officers said that the fencing did not cause any
operational difficulties, but that the Lonsdale enclosure was a hack
area, and the opening should be sufficient to allow access to hack
riders. A member proposed that one of the extensions for the Upper
Tattenham enclosure should be pared back to allow a further
unenclosed weekend, so that fencing would be allowed from the 13 May
vice 7 May. [Ed: Unexpected engagement from council
members on the applications. But consent under the byelaws sidesteps
the constraint that the 1984 Act doesn’t provide for fencing of the
Upper Tattenham Enclosure to be brought forward or for the Lonsdale
Enclosure to be retained: the fact that any question of an offence
under the byelaws has been swept aside does not render lawful the
fencing itself: it still lacks authority under the Act, which is
exceptionally prescriptive as to what the racecourse may or may not
Proposed fencing on
3rd tee of golf course: there was some discussion over whether a
low fence was necessary, and a hedge would not be a sufficient
alternative. There was concern over the lack of discipline among
course members. The golf course’s proposal was described as a
crude solution, and the club was asked to consider alternatives,
which might include temporary fencing to protect a young hedge.
Epsom and Walton
Downs Consultative Committee: the minutes of the meeting of the
consultative committee held on 18 March 2013 were considered. [Ed:
the board took precisely 25 seconds to consider the minutes.]
Code of conduct
signs: a near final draft of the signs was displayed to the
board, and it was proposed to place an order once the byelaws had
been approved. It was approved with a minor adjustment, but the
chairman discouraged further discussion, as it had already been
considered a number of times.
Hack sand track:
this item was taken after the exclusion of the public.
Date of downs tour:
30 July at 1430.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 24 Jan, 2013 21:56:17
Simon Durrant, the new general manager of the racecourse, had been
appointed as the racecourse representative [Ed: as usual, the board went
through the charade of approving his appointment, but the appointment
is a matter for the racecourse, not the board].
the works had been delayed owing to bad weather, and the contractors
would not be complete until March. The fencing would therefore
remain in place. [Ed: No-one mentioned an extension of
authorisation for the fencing.]
awaited confirmation by DCLG, with consequential delay to code of
conduct notice boards.
Downs House: the
clerk said that the council had sought agents to advise it on a
disposal, and an internal meeting would take place next week to make
a selection of an agent for that purpose.
TGMB: had met in
mid-December, and had confirmed its position on the hatched area [Ed:
board members fell off their chairs at this point].
a report had been circulated with options for refurbishment, or
replacement with a portable building. Two conservators criticised
the cost of demolition, and three the appearance of the proposed
portable building, calling for a new build replacement, but didn’t
have any suggestions for how it might be funded (apart from
‘sponsorship’). The council’s leisure committee had limited
the council’s contribution to £30k. It was agreed to look at
alternatives to refurbishment at lower cost and better appearance,
and if necessary to revert to the leisure committee. [Ed: the
board has been here before, and concluded it couldn’t afford a new
building. Will it be any different next time, in the present
economic climate? The racecourse representative said as much. No
doubt the downskeepers will despair that a decision has now been
postponed at least another three months, while the rain seeps in and
the heating is failing.]
The racecourse said that the purpose of the paper was merely to set
out the broad intention, seeking a decision in principle. The
chairman said crossly that she thought a decision should be deferred,
as there was insufficient information to inform a decision, and this
was agreed. [Ed: I'm not clear however what the use of the Prince's Stand has got to do with the board, as opposed to the council's planning committee. The racecourse plays an odd game of keeping the board sweet on matters where the board has no statutory role — and then skirting the requirement of the 1984 Act.]
the board was invited to approve expenditure levels for the next
financial year. The council treasurer (who doubles up as the
treasurer to the conservators) introduced the report. Several
questions about staff followed, but the recommendations were agreed
without any substantive debate.
Walton Road: the
consultative committee had authorised us to appear before the board
to make representations on carriage driving on Walton Road. We said
that Walton Road was and is the shortest route between Epsom and
Walton-on-the-Hill. It's a public road, just like any other. Some
older residents of the borough remember driving this way. But since
1978, it has been subject to a TRO. The TRO restricts, on non-race
days, motor vehicular traffic between the Rubbing House and the
bottom of Ebbisham Lane. The TRO does not restrict any other
traffic: cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles.
Recreational carriage drivers, in common with other recreational
users, are looking for quiet, preferably traffic free, routes in the
countryside suitable for driving horse drawn vehicles. Walton Road
and Ebbisham Lane are ideal for this purpose, particularly as there
is room to park and turn at the Rubbing House. But there are
obstructions along the course of Walton Road which do restrict those
users, and particular users of horse drawn vehicles. Those
- locked barrier at the
Ebbisham Lane car park
- the barrier at the Mac Track
- projecting barriers in Warren
- the barrier at the fibresand
- the post at the crossing of the back
of the racecourse
- the locked barrier below the Rubbing
Any of these
obstructions, when they are in place, prevent lawful use of Walton
Road, as a public highway, by horse drawn vehicles. They should not
be there: it is a criminal offence to obstruct the highway. The
board must ask itself: why are they there? Were they placed there by
another body, in which case, did the board unlawfully give its
approval? Or did the board's own staff put them there, in which
case, it has itself acted unlawfully? Either way, the board should
recognise the illegality of what has been done, and address it. If
the board choses to take no action, it condones illegality on land
which the board itself controls. The board cannot chose to condemn
the illegal actions of others — whether dog walkers who do not
control their dogs in the vicinity of horses in training, hack riders
who ride on the training areas, or residents who extent their garden
fence onto the downs — but overlook illegality under its own
responsibility. If it does, it sends a clear signal to downs users —
that the board does not consider itself bound by the very rules it
seeks to enforce.
We therefore called on
the board to take steps to remove these obstructions, while ensuring
that the restriction of motor vehicular traffic is maintained. If
neither the board, nor the highway authority, takes action, we said
we will apply to have Walton Road recorded on the definitive map and
statement as a byway open to all traffic (BOAT). This will enable us
to serve notice on the highway authority under section 130A of the
Highways Act 1980, to remove the obstructions. We said that the
board might also consider that recording Walton Road as a BOAT would
increase cyclists' use of Walton Road across Six Mile Hill training
area, and attract use by so called 'off road' motor cyclists, which
could be difficult to deter.
For the first time in
many years, the board had secured attendance by the highways
authority, whose representative said he approached the issue
primarily as an engineering issue, and he was not a legal expert. He
said that his comments should not be taken as legal advice, but from
an experienced highways officer. He said the BHS view was in his
opinion correct. That the way was in disrepair did not change its
status. There was no evidence of the TRO on site, and it was
therefore unenforceable. It was possible to enforce a TRO with
barriers [Ed: i.e. barriers erected by the highways authority: not
by anyone else], but
where the TRO did not apply universally, then the exemptions should
be catered for within whatever arrangements were put in place. If
the TRO did not apply to horse drawn vehicles, then the BHS view was
correct, and the obstructions should be removed. This raised the
question why the obstructions had been installed: did whoever
installed them not fully appreciate the legal position? There was a tension in this context, as there
were competing ambitions for the route. The highways representative
had noted the priority given by the board to the racehorse training
community, and he accepted that improving access for other users
would not sit comfortably with the board’s own ambitions [Ed:
sharp officer, this chap, but not exactly consistent with the board's
duties.]. One option was
to modify or amend the TRO; another was to achieve a stopping-up.
But the latter was likely to be contended, and it would be difficult
to satisfy the legal conditions. He asked what outcome was sought,
and how to achieve it? From the information available, the highway
authority could be put under pressure to discover who had placed the
obstructions, and how they could be removed.
The council’s legal
director was asked to respond, and said that it was not the board who
had placed the barriers: it was a matter for the highway authority to
resolve with the landowner, or whoever had placed the obstructions.
The racecourse expressed interest in a device [Ed: a Kent carriage
gap.] which could exclude
motor vehicles, but admit horse drawn carriages. The highways
representative said that any exemption for access in the TRO could
pose difficulties in terms of those who might wish to access the
downs for recreation in their car. It was also difficult to exclude
motor vehicles while admitting horse drawn carriages, because motor
cyclists particularly could get round any restrictions [Ed: which
of course, they can now, though surprisingly don't, at least to my
The chairman said that
it was the highways authority’s responsibility to address the
matter. The signage should be dealt with; the authority should then
respond with proposals which were acceptable to all concerned, with a
report to the board. The highway representative said [Ed:
presumably embarrassed at the proposal that the highways authority
should prepare a report for anyone other than a committee of the
county council, still less for a body which had acquiesced in the
obstructions] that it was
a matter between the authority and the landowner or other person
responsible for the obstruction: the board did not have a role.
The council's legal
director asked about the width of Walton Road: the answer was that
there was no defined width, but highway boundary plans might show
sufficient information to provide an answer. He added that it was
clear that there were key stakeholders, and the authority would not
wish to proceed without consulting stakeholders, including the board
and the BHS. However, it might not be able to satisfy all
aspirations. The board was nonetheless invited to say what it wanted
to achieve, and to indicate a sense of priority.
The clerk was now asked
to respond, who said that the board was guided by the Act, but
reiterated that the board did not have any specific role in the
matter. Her advice was that the board should not seek, and could not
seek, to enforce. The chairman noted that the conservators had not
received any complaints about carriage driving, and therefore saw no
urgency [Ed: untrue, as my own records show representations to the clerk as long ago as 2004.]. The trainers’ representative said that the current
obstructions contributed to the safety of downs users, and their
immediate withdrawal would give great cause for concern.
representative said that it was not the authority’s intention to
‘throw the book’ at anyone, and noted that no representations had
been received. The matter could be taken sensitively and carefully.
Local opinion would be canvassed. No estimate could be given of the
timescale. Priorities would be determined by the county council
local committee. It was difficult to know how people would respond
The racecourse asked
about the process to extend the TRO to include horse drawn vehicles.
The highways representative said approval would be needed from the
local committee. An amendment would be advertised for
representations, which would then be considered by the local
committee. The committee could nonetheless overrule objections, as
there was unlikely to be a statutory impediment. The chairman now
said that this seemed a sensible way forward [Ed: I thought the
board had said it had no role in the matter?],
and the matter should be brought before the local committee. The
highways representative asked the board to confirm whether horse
drawn vehicles should be included in the prohibition: which the
chairman did. The board was asked to write to the local committee to
that effect, which would enable it to determine priorities and
officers to consult. The chairman alternatively thought that the
racecourse could ask for action. The racecourse representative [Ed:
having been tossed the poisoned chalice, and with one eye to the
local publicity] was hesitant to commit to taking this course.
Asked about recording
Walton Road as a BOAT, the highways representative said he could not
The clerk said the
matter had been kicked around for some while. She agreed it appeared
to be legally obstructed, but driving in contravention of the TRO was
unenforceable owing to poor signage. An approach to the local
committee around the exclusion of horse drawn vehicles would ‘flush
out’ the issues. The trainers’ representative said he had no
issues with horse drawn carriages on the downs, and appeared to say
he had seen many such carriages on the downs [Ed: this may have
been an ironic allusion to the gypsy buggies which tended to turn up
on past Horseman's Sundays],
but the impact of opening the road without restrictions was that
there would be dire health and safety implications. The board would
then be obliged to provide fencing and protection. The barriers were
there to prevent people from getting hurt. [Ed: it wasn't
entirely clear, but he appeared to mean that, if the barriers either
side of the training gallops were withdrawn to facilitate passage by
carriages, there would be a greater risk of accidents between horses
in training and downs users.]
representative said that, if there was a demand for a facility for
horse drawn carriages, could that be provided without impinging on
the racecourse? The trainers’ representative felt unable to
It was concluded that
the racecourse would decide whether to make an approach to the local
committee. There appeared to be no specific decision that the board
would act if the racecourse did not.
Surface of Walton
Road: it was reported that the surface south of the Rubbing House
had been attended to repair potholes, but remained in a poor state.
The highways representative agreed to make a further inspection.
at Queen’s Stand: there had been a number of episodes of the
red lights being jumped. Some limited policing had had no effect
[Ed: it turned out this involved a police vehicle parked at the
lights. How pointless!].
The highways representative said that the Government had put in
place strict criteria to install new cameras, and although these had
been relaxed, they had been retained by the highway authority. The
worst sites were prioritised by casualties, and there had been
insufficient in Ashley Road to justify a camera. The situation was
difficult: drivers tended to push at the boundaries when it suited
them, and were more likely to chance it when there was no-one
obviously on the crossing. The position was particularly acute at
the equestrian crossings, because they could be activated well in
advance of the horses' arrival at the crossing. The trainers’
representative said he crossed many times a day, and endorsed what
had been said. A speed limit and traffic calming would help. The
incidents happened almost entirely during the morning rush hour,
during term time. The highways representative suggested that it
might help if someone on foot was standing at the crossing showing an
intention to use it, but the trainers’ representative thought he
could not provide anyone for that purpose. It was unlikely that the
appropriate speed would be assessed as lower than the present limit
of 40mph, and if the limit were nonetheless lowered, it might require
significant road works to support enforcement. However, the cabinet
member had discretion to depart from policy. In short, it seemed,
nothing could be done.
roundabout outside the grand stand: the highways representative
said that the soakaways had been cleared out, but this had made
little difference. If the soakaways were defective, then a remedy
could be very costly. It was now practice to fully check the
connections on a visit. Instructions had been given to remove sludge
from the soakaway, but steps would be taken to ensure that the
instructions had been complied with by the contractor.
Tour of Britain
cycle race: the start would take place on a Saturday. The
trainers’ representative said it would cause chaos and they would
not be able to train on that day. The downs were already under
pressure. The racecourse supported those concerns. It was suggested
that the event might be lost from Epsom if it could not be hosted on
the downs. [Ed: after some discussion, with a couple of council
board members expressing their own concern, it looked like the
proposal would be thrown out, especially when the chairman resolved
to take a vote, but then some other council board members spoke up in
favour (actually, I think one adopted a position entirely contrary to
what she had previously said), supporting the event on economic
grounds.] A vote was taken on the recommendations: 6 in favour
and 3 against.
consultative committee: although we had expressed concern in the
consultative committee on the minutes of the previous board, which
had been admitted to be wrong in the consultative committee, nothing
was said by the chairman, and the items were ‘brought to the
attention’ of the board in one minute, with no discussion. [Ed:
a perfect illustration of how the consultative committee is utterly
ineffective in influencing the board.]
Pathways on golf
course: new paths were approved on the 8th and 16th
We were then asked to
leave for a confidential agenda item on the hack sand track.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 18 Oct, 2012 20:13:10
This was one of the
longest agenda for a board meeting which I can recall, with a tally
of 19 items, but the board cantered through them in only an hour and
a quarter. Rupert Trevelyan had been appointed regional director for
the Surrey group of racecourse, so his future role as representative
of the racecourse was uncertain.
Walton Road carriage
driving: there was a new highways manager Nick Healey. Surrey
said they were happy with the current arrangements, and had no plans
to make any changes, but they were happy to consider any representations, and to attend the next meeting of the conservators
to discuss highways. [We didn’t ask whether the council was ‘happy with the current arrangements’: we asked why carriage drivers were illegally excluded from using Walton Road. ‘Happiness’
is not a relevant consideration. No answer to that. Ed] The
council was also thought to have tackled some pot-holes at the
Rubbing House, but there was concern that conditions demanded further
Racecourse Flattening Works: the Lonsdale stand had been
demolished. Chalk was being supplied from a quarry in Kent.
a capital bid was being considered and would be brought to the board
Epsom Golf Course
Habitat Management Plan management responsibilities: there had
been a productive meeting with the golf course and a realistic
schedule of responsibilities had been drawn up.
Tarred surface of
Walton Road: the TGMB apologised for the ‘honest mistake’
which meant that no permission had been obtained for the surfacing
works on Six Mile Hill, but such permission was now sought. The
current arrangements were considered the safest ever. Any extension
further downhill was in abeyance until the board’s views had been
established, and would require planning permission: no decision had
been taken by the TGMB. The chairman, reading from a prepared 'slap wrists' statement, said that the board must be
asked for approval for any fencing outside that allowed by the Act,
noting that the chairman and clerk were prepared to act quickly where
necessary, as they had done in respect of the Londsdale enclosure.
Unauthorised fencing meant the board looked ineffectual and sapped
confidence in it. A discussion on the merits of the surfacing
followed. One member described it as effective, particularly as
users were keeping to the surfaced road. The surfacing was therefore
approved. Similarly, permission was given for the temporary
retention of chestnut palings on Middle Hill, to “protect the
vulnerable verges of the Middle Hill Winter Gallops, used from
November onwards,”, which had also been erected without permission.
Mid year budget
report: there was a proposal for a two per cent increase in the
2013–14 budget, roughly in line with inflation, and the basis on
which the estimates had been prepared. There were the usual handful
of questions on detail, and the planned budget for next year was
agreed without comment.
Letter to Properties
which back on to the Downs: this appeared to relate to properties
in the Langley Vale area. The board had written to neighbouring
owners about inappropriate maintenance or encroachment onto the
downs. The head downskeeper took the view that the warnings had been
effective. [This was described as unnecessary maintenance of the
downs — but since these areas aren’t maintained by
the conservators, it seems a bit harsh to act against adjoining
landowners. Better to have a lawn on which one can walk or ride,
than impenetrable scrub. Particularly if your garden is the other
side of the fence. Ed]
Hack sand track:
it hadn’t been possible to conclude the report and this was
therefore deferred to a future meeting. [The chairman wasn’t
saying which meeting. Ed]
Adoption of cycling
byelaw: the board was asked to (and did) formally adopt the
byelaw confirmed by the Secretary of State. [This rather ignored
that the byelaw had already been confirmed, and has effect whether
the board likes it or not. As it happens, the board did like it. Just as well. Ed]
all the applications related to events which had previously taken
place on the downs. There were no objections from the racecourse or
trainers. There were four events outstanding for approval. Only the
Race for Life attracted comment: the number of participants
would be capped at 5,000. There would be no charge for the event,
since it had come in before the commencement of the charging
arrangements. It was suggested that the board should at least seek
to recover its costs in facilitating the event. However, the
downskeeper said the event organisers were now more effective in
organising and clearing up, and impact was therefore lower. It was
decided to seek to estimate the expenses incurred, and seek a
contribution from the organisers through the reinstatement bond.
Downs house: the
future of the racing yard, owned by the council but recently vacated
by the lessee (following court action), was included on the agenda
for information (the yard is not part of the regulated area of the
committee tour of downs: no comments made.
consultative committee (paper): the committee was tasked to identify any
amendments required to the constitution at its next meeting. One
board member thought that any group representing downs users should
be capable of being represented in the committee, and none should be
excluded. It was clarified that the second council member of the
committee did not need to be a board member.
Flooding of Buckles
Gap roundabout: it was explained that Surrey highways had
prioritised the flooding at this roundabout (it was acknowledged that
there were issues at the Grand Stand roundabout too). The works at
Buckles Gap would be funded as a capital item. These were approved.
Code of conduct
entrance signs (paper): there was discussion about the design of the
signage units, revolving around several options presented in a board
paper, but bizarrely, no discussion of what would actually appear on
the signs themselves. The ‘Stanley Park’ design was preferred,
with three units to be installed. [Perhaps because the content of
the specimen sign in the board paper looks rather nice. Ed] It
was however noted that the byelaws would be set out on the back.
Dates of next
meetings: 24 January, 18 April, 20 June, 17 October, all in 2013
and at 18.00 hours.
ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 04 Jun, 2012 11:06:48
Back in December 2011, I wrote about the conservators' meeting on 5 December
, which considered the racecourse's proposal for consent to works on the Tattenham Straight, and its proposal to extract fill material from the hatched area on Six Mile Hill. I said, "The meeting then went into closed session to discuss (presumably) the contribution to the repair of the downskeepers' hut."
The minute of that session was, like the closed session itself, designated 'confidential'. On 18 December, I asked for disclosure of the confidential minute under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. After some prevarication, I received the minute
on 1 June.
It seems that, even as the meeting purported to grant consent for extraction of the fill material, the meeting was in closed session advised that the racecourse was unlikely to be able to obtain the consent of the freeholder to the extraction (the freehold of Six Mile Hill is vested in The Trelissick Trust as successor to the late Stanley Wootton, who granted a long lease to what is now the racecourse). It seems that the racecourse had offered to pay for the necessary consent, but no response had been received.
The racecourse proposed to source fill from elsewhere. And here's the stunning bit: "The Council-appointed Conservators expressed concern at this possibility, in particular as it would not provide the ecological benefit that would be achieved through use of the ‘hatched area’ as a source of material. The Chairman emphasised the importance of the ecological benefits to be gained, and requested the Racecourse to continue its efforts to come to an agreement with the freeholder."
When this proposal first surfaced (cynically revealed a few days after the meeting of the consultative committee on 31 October 2011
, where not a word was said by the racecourse or the chairman — even though plans were sufficiently well advanced for local exhibitions the following week), we assumed that it was driven by the racecourse. What's now clear from this minute is that the proposal to use specifically the hatched area
for a source of fill material was viscerally supported by the chairman. When that seemed likely to fall through, the chairman pressed the racecourse to find a way to proceed with it nevertheless. Indeed, one wonders whether the chairman originated the idea in the first place? Whatever, the minute is hardly suggestive of a board of conservators reluctantly going along with the racecourse's plans as the least worst option for extraction: quite the reverse — "The Council-appointed Conservators expressed concern" that the racecourse might source the fill from elsewhere!
Needless to say, if the conservators were serious about delivering ecological benefits, they could do that anywhere on the downs at any time. They don't need to render a hack area permanently unfit for use to do that. Yet the board meetings rarely focus on conservation of the downs, despite the board's statutory purpose§ of conserving the downs (apart from a spurious concern about the impact of harmless athletics and charity events — see this story
for one resident's view on that — without a word ever said on the matter of the incomparably greater impact of race days), and even the proposed extraction of fill from the hatched area, ostensibly done with conservation in mind, would have seen 250 x 20 tonne HGV movements trundling along the downs' bridleways.
So it's hard to see this proposal as about conservation: it's really about its impact on the hatched area
, and the board's aspiration to wreck, once and for all, any possible future use of the hatched area for hack riding. Thanks, unexpectedly and perhaps unwittingly, to The Trelissick Trust, the proposal has gone into abeyance.
[§ Section 10 of the Epsom and Walton Downs Regulation Act 1984
sets out the primary duty of the board as follows: "It shall be the duty of the Conservators to preserve the Downs so far as possible in their natural state of beauty".]