Hack writer

Hack writer

About this blog

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

Conservators' meeting, 19 April 2012

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 19 Apr, 2012 19:51:48
Training Grounds Management Board: a meeting was held at the end of March. Training numbers are showing a decline of around 20%, in common with other training grounds. The hatched area was discussed in the context of creating scrapes (though we were not told what conclusions were reached).

Beacon event on the downs: the Derby Arms had agreed to the use of toilet facilities which would, taken with others, provide sufficient to meet requirements. A decision was taken, after much officer engagement in the background, to agree to the event.

Incident on the downs: a letter from Mr Tozer, and an article from last Saturday’s Telegraph, Menacing dogs put an end to my rides, had been circulated. Since no-one else had seen either document, it was hard to discern what was referred to while at the meeting, but it emerged that it was about the long-standing dog attacks on horses. A renewed but brief discussion took place about the viability of requiring dogs to be kept on leads, but it was observed that the board had been here before. The clerk referred to a recently reported episode in Horton, where a horse had bolted after an attack, and been put down after collision with a car. The trainers’ representative was concerned that owners didn’t get a false picture of the risk to horses in training, and suggested stronger and clearer advice to dog walkers at the two key entry points to the downs; the trainers would be willing to sponsor such signs. A code of conduct was needed for downs users. There would be a report to the June meeting on dogs. It was decided not to respond to the article in the Telegraph.

John Akehurst’s funeral: the chairman attended on behalf of the board, and reported a huge turnout.

Chairman’s report: noted without comment.

Hack sand track: the promised ‘report to follow’ did not, owing to other pressures on officers. An independent risk assessment was being carried out to help assess requirements for maintenance and repair. Meanwhile, the beachcomber remained in regular use. The head downskeeper said he might need to close the track owing to flooding from recent rain, and sought approval to do so. There was some discussion about the requirement in the Act to provide an alternative, although the clerk said that ‘health and safety’ could trump this requirement. The head downskeeper was asked to liaise with the hack riders’ representative.

Epsom and Walton Downs management plan: the downs strategy was published in 2006, but was now considered dated and in need of a review. It was proposed to prepare a management plan, involving stakeholders, and an associated action plan, and consider where funding might be found for the costs of implementation. The plan and action plan would link to the existing habitat management plan, but stand apart. It was suggested that engagement should be sought from the neighbouring borough of Reigate and Banstead and district of Mole Valley, as well as their councils. Progression would be dependent on resources, including officers’ time. Recommendations to take forward were approved.

Tattenham Straight update: the racecourse explained that the freeholder of the hatched area continued to withhold consent for spoil extraction, and the racecourse wanted to identify an alternative source: the project would otherwise be further delayed. Such a source would need to be verified as appropriate and clean. The board was asked to agree an alternative source subject to certification. The avoidance of routing lorries across the downs was noted, and described by the chairman as a ‘huge concern’. Plans to create scrapes on the hatched area was approved with murmurs of enthusiasm. The chairman questioned whether this was intended to be subject to agreement from all relevant stakeholders, as described in the report, and said this couldn’t be realised: it wouldn’t happen. It was questioned whether the Trelissick Trust was such a stakeholder, and whether it needed to approve. The ecological adviser said he was keen to install a ‘couple of scrapes’: asked whether creating new scrapes was in the habitat management plan, he thought so. The chairman proposed to remove the requirement for agreement from ‘all relevant stakeholders’ and this was agreed without comment. With this amendment, the recommendations were all agreed, with confirmation of the release of funding for the downskeepers’ hut. (Ed: some uncertainty remained about whether the Trelissick Trust would need to consent to the scrapes, and if so, whether the scrapes should be located outside its freehold ownership.)

Events: four events were presented for approval: Round the Borough Walk, Racing Pigeon Liberation (tiny), Tadworth 10 (10 mile athletic race), and Rotary Club of Banstead Sponsored Walk. Officers were grilled by the trainers’ representative about the Rotary Club walk, but gave assurances that the sponsors were experienced and had held the event for many years. It was suggested that the need for patrolling incurred additional costs, but it was concluded that there would be no additional staff on duty. All the events were approved. It was noted that the Cancer Research Race for Life had offered a contribution of £200 towards reinstatement costs. Advice about charging for events would be brought to a subsequent meeting.

Derby arrangements: it was agreed to authorise the chairman and clerk to approve the caravan site fee.

Close: this being the final meeting of the year, thanks were offered to the clerk and Tim Richardson, the committee clerk.

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Meeting, 19 January 2012

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 20 Jan, 2012 07:48:02
Training Grounds Management Board: the TGMB met on 5 December. The two all-weather track refurbishment projects had been delivered and were working well. Numbers of horses in training are expected to drop at Epsom (and throughout the industry), perhaps by one-fifth, following a modest reduction in late 2011. Funding of the hack sand track was discussed (to be picked up later in the agenda). On the grass gallops below the polytrack, Walton Road was reported to be causing problems because of the eroded paths created by users, and it was proposed to improve the hard base to enable woodchips or polytrack to be put down on top; the longer term aim was to improve the whole route, but in the short term, to address the top part.

Dog control: no progress to report, but expectation of a report at the June meeting.

Cycling signs: these had now been placed on the horse margin adjacent to Langley Vale Road (see here).

Hack Sand Track: Refurbishment works were included in the list of capital projects to be considered for approval by the Borough Council's Leisure Committee at its meeting of 18 January, but the committee was not happy about the justification for the scheme, and particularly the legal requirements and whether there were lower cost solutions: the committee had proposed consideration by council in February, but this timetable was unlikely to be met. It was reported that the racecourse is prepared to consider funding over two years; the TGMB is concerned at its share and it too wishes to see a lower cost solution. Alternative surfacing would also be considered. Meanwhile, a machine which would assist in the clearance of stones has been identified.

High winds: The racecourse declined to comment on the damage to the roof.

Race for life: A proposal for this event to take place on 24 June 2012 was circulated just before the meeting. Where the route does not follow surfaced tracks, it almost entirely lies upon hack areas: and indeed, various marquees will be erected on the platform adjacent to the home straight. Comment was passed on setting-up taking place from 0600, but runners would not arrive until about 1100. The racecourse said that public relations needed careful handling, and there was an opportunity to invite a contribution to making good damage. The head downskeeper said that the main impact was clearance of rubbish, but if the weather were wet, then the impact would be much greater. Questions were asked about whether the event could be suspended at short notice if conditions were poor, or whether the route could be altered to remain on hard tracks. It was suggested that there should be a cap on numbers, a charge, or acceptance only in alternate years. A pound-a-head charge was proposed, although officers advised that the organisers might not be able to absorb the charge at this stage in arrangements, and that it might be more appropriate to warn that the charge would be imposed in future years. The organisers already put a sum aside (perhaps £1k) to deal with clean-up. So it was agreed to approve the proposal on these terms, with a voluntary contribution sought from the organisers.

Potential for charging for events on the downs: It was agreed, virtually without debate, that the TGMB and racecourse work together to produce a more detailed strategy for charging for category B, C and D events on the downs. [Ed: It's arguable that the racecourse may be able to charge for events, but neither the board of conservators nor the council can: the Act confers no powers on the board to charge (except for admission to car parks), and the council has no power to charge for the giving of its consent to events (and otherwise has no interest which could possibly enable it to levy charges). In the paper submitted to the board, the legal advice begins by proposing that the racecourse can indeed charge, but later becomes somewhat more vague about who exactly can or will charge: whereas the annexe makes clear that it envisages that either the board or the council will charge! It looks like the legal advice has fudged the issue, so it will be interesting to see what emerges in a proposal to the next meeting.]

Budget for 2013-14: The budget was introduced by the treasurer, and as usual, approved without debate except for the usual can’t-see-the-wood-for-the-trees questions about budgeting for electricity.

Diamond jubilee beacon: some new logistical issues had been identified since the report was published, concerning parking and other matters, which had yet to be resolved, and it could not yet be said that the event was viable, particularly as the council could meet any additional costs. One councillor suggested that it would be better to have alcohol sold on site by local businesses, rather than it being brought onto site by visitors, although the chairman thought that retailers would lack the control which they exercised over their own premises. The beacon was described as built from pallets, but the precise location was not described. It was accepted that the beacon itself would go ahead, but that the community event was insufficiently well-defined. A special meeting on 1 March would be scheduled if a sufficient proposition was available.

Tattenham Straight works: the works were approved at the Leisure committee the previous day.

Race Meetings 2012: there would be 12 race days in 2012, as none was feasible during Olympic fortnight, and the first three Thursdays were likely to be music nights, with the possibility of an operatic night. It was agreed to delegate approval of applications from the racecourse to the clerk.

Dates of meetings: 19 April, 28 June, 18 October.


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Meeting, 5 December 2011

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 06 Dec, 2011 22:14:52
This meeting had been called (the second such meeting) to approve the racecourse plans for works to level and raise the Tattenham Straight enclosure — and more relevantly, to extract part of the fill required for the works from an area of land at the foot of Six Mile Hill. See here for the agenda, the ecological assessment and design and access statement including map showing routes for transport of the fill, and report by Nick Owen.

Receipt was confirmed of the Epsom Equestrian forum email.

The ecological appraisal was put forward first for discussion. The chairman identified the pages of the report, but no-one had any comments to make. The board went on to Nick Owen’s report: again, no comments. Then the design and access statement appended to the ecological appraisal: none again. And the soil contamination report (not available on the website): none. (Goodness knows if anybody had read them: you’d think that someone would have at least one question on 29 pages of technical appraisal? Ed)

A question was asked about the measurement of vehicle movements. The racecourse said they would use reputable contractors who would comply with requirements, although it wasn’t quite clear what requirements. It was suggested that the downskeepers should not have to enforce adherence to requirements: there should be confidence that the requirements would be met regardless. Signs would be needed to explain what was going on and the reasons for it.

The chairman said that the proposals should improve the downs — certainly, biodiversity should be improved.

There was then no debate on approving the works: this seemed to be a foregone conclusion. A discussion took place on whether there should be a debate about the payment to be made to the board for works to the downkeepers’ hut, and it was agreed that this was not relevant. (I think what was really meant was that they wanted to discuss that aspect behind closed doors: see below.)

It was noted that the council’s leisure committee would need to approve the demolition of the Lonsdale Standard. (The 1984 Act requires the council's approval to all the works to the Tattenham Straight enclosure.)

The chairman imposed further conditions: works subject to the approval of the owners of the land, and compliance with all conditions imposed.

The meeting then went into closed session to discuss (presumably) the contribution to the repair of the downskeepers' hut.

Editorial: So after about 20 minutes' discussion (hardly debate) the works had been approved. No questions about the impact (beneficial or otherwise) on the extraction site at Six Mile Hill, or the compatibility of the fill sources from Ashtead Park, or the impact of around 250 20 tonne HGV movements around the downs, or the effect of the extraction on equestrian use of the hatched area, or indeed on any other downs users. Remember: this is the same board which last October refused permission for an event for 165 runners because of impact on the downs. Presumably, one runner is perceived to have a greater impact than one 20 tonne lorry carting away the very fabric of the downs.

There are three questions which we will ask the board:

1/ Does the board consider the use of the hatched area to extract fill will render it permanently inaccessible to hack riders? If so, does the board consider this outcome lawful in respect of land designated for the purposes of the Act as a part-time hack area? If so, please say what advice was tendered to the board in this respect, and how the consequences were made clear to the board?

2/ Does the board agree that the use of the hard track at the foot of Six Mile Hill for 113 HGV movements (in each direction) is capable of constituting a public nuisance in a designated public bridleway? Moreover, given that movements could alternatively take place along Walton Road (north across Six Mile Hill), a public road, or south along Ebbisham Lane and via other local roads, the use of a public bridleway for this purpose cannot be justified.

3/ Access to the hatched area will require HGVs to cross the sand track in the vicinity of Walton Road. What powers will the board exercise to restrict use of the sand track and the adjacent linear hack area to enable a suitable crossing to be put in place? Does the board intend to grant a specific consent for that undefined purpose? Will the crossing be removed at the close of business each day (as it must be removed from the Mac track), or will it be left in place across the sand track while excavation continues: if so, for how long?

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Meeting, 17 October 2011

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Oct, 2011 20:59:03
Training Grounds Management Board: TGMB agreed refurbishment of the Mac track and the Poly track (at the bottom and top of Six Mile Hill). This is now underway, with the Mac track already reopened. The position on use of the hatched ground was unchanged, and predictably there was no mention of the questions which we discussed at the consultative committee meeting and asked the chairman to raise at this meeting.

Dog control: no news.

Horse margin, Langley Vale Road: Signage about priority to horses in training are being prepared. There was yet another redundant discussion about the status of the horse margin as a public bridleway (this ground has been covered more than once before). It was suggested that cycling could be prohibited before noon, but the highway authority was not receptive.

Mid-year budget monitoring report: The treasurer reported that current and forecast spending levels were reducing available reserves. A deficit of £27k was forecast for 2012–13, which would reduce the working balance to around £20k. The treasurer noted that scope for further savings and opportunities to generate more income were limited, and a review of contributions was desirable. Although the council was facing an 11% budget cut, it might be possible to use contingency to fund an increase in the council’s precept. The racecourse said that new funding was not realistic, and the conservators should start exploring previously discounted options, such as charging for parking and events. Was there really no scope to reduce costs? The treasurer said that a proposal for new rotas (to reduce the staffing requirement) had been rejected three years ago, but could be revived: decisions on next year’s budget were needed by January. Central services provided by the council were generally not charged even now. The head downskeeper said that staffing had already been cut back. There was a discussion of whether charges could be made for external events held on the Downs (i.e. non-racing events), with several board members speaking in support of recovering the costs of hosting the events, and a report was commissioned from the racecourse and officers for the next meeting in January, which would need to consider the legal framework. Meanwhile, a proposal from the chairman to increase precepts by 4½% for 2012–13 was deferred until the next meeting.

Music nights: The head downskeeper reported that better racecourse stewarding and police intervention (confiscating extensive quantities of alcohol from under-age drinkers) had helped to reduce the amount anti-social behaviour. One board member reported particular problems with use of Chalk Lane. The board agreed to pass on its thanks to Surrey Police. The racecourse planned just three events next year, because of the Olympics, targeted at an older profile.

Hack posts: A number of new hack marker posts have been installed. Yellow hack ride arrows, used to identify hack rides available after noon, will be marked with a red border, to distinguish them from public footpath waymarks.

Training restrictions: The TGMB has resolved to tighten up on regulations regarding training on the downs, and the head downskeeper will consider whether increased patrolling of the gallops can be done in the afternoon.

Diamond Jubilee beacon: The event would follow the Derby weekend, organised by the scouts, and parking might be limited owing to dismantling within the Tattenham Enclosure. A question was asked about the financial implications, in terms of cleaning up and additional patrolling: however, it was expected that additional costs would fall on the council vice the conservators. The proposal was agreed in principle, with provision of food and drink (with reservations expressed about alcohol).

Events on the downs: several small events were approved.

Conservators’ downs tour: This had taken place on 7 October. No substantive discussion.

Minutes of the consultative committee: This had taken place on 4 July. No substantive discussion.

Hack sand track: A capital bid had been submitted to the council as one of the precepting bodies. The total cost would be £140k, shared between the precepting bodies. The racecourse was asked to note the capital requirements, having regard to the risks of the existing facilities.

Route to the south of Juniper Hill, designation for inclusion as authorised cycle routes: the chairman summed up by saying that the situation should be left as it is, so that the route would not be designated, but equally, there would be no enforcement. The county council would be asked to remove the route from its map of cycle routes.

Pathway near 10th hole of golf course: Proposal agreed.

Surface of Ebbisham Lane: The chairman confirmed that copy of my email of 11 October had been received by board members. Comments were invited. The clerk said a site visit had taken place last year. Her report on the notice process was before the board. Costs depended on who drafted the notice: if done in-house, the costs would fall on the legal team, else counsel would cost £1k. Other organisations were at liberty to serve a notice. The chairman noted my comments that the process was intended to be straightforward. The racecourse asked whether the road fell within the conservators’ jurisdiction, as the road was in the adjoining borough: why was it of concern to the board? The conservators had a duty to maintain the car park at the foot of Ebbisham Lane. The chairman expressed reservations about spending any money on the process, however little. One member said she would change her mind if the cost was less than £1k. The clerk noted the implications of lack of repair for reinstating the hack sand track. The board agreed to take no action.

Downs strategy: The chairman asked to see the downs strategy action plan by the next meeting.

Date of next meeting: Was agreed for Thursday 19th January 2012. A meeting on the alterations to the Tattenham Flat and Lonsdale Stand was agreed for 10th November 2011 or Monday 21st November, to be decided by the racecourse.

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Meeting, 11 April 2011

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 12 Apr, 2011 07:23:47
Training Grounds Management Board: Agreement was given (with no discussion) to extend the polytrack to its original intended full length.

Dog control: the promised update was that there was nothing to report. A possible dog control order could not be taken forward unless there was sufficient funding for enforcement – which there was not. There was the possibility of a roadshow on the downs to promote better education. One member said it was important to keep dog control high on the agenda, and the recent incident (see link from blog) was mentioned. But it was unclear what, if anything, was being done to keep it high on the agenda.

Epsom Downs Racecourse Family Funday: plans for a combined trainers’ open day and family funday racecourse meeting.

Kite flying: Chris Grayling MP had written with his concerns about kite fliers and model aircraft fliers being in conflict. Downs officers had gained the support of the model aircraft fliers to resolve the situation. Downskeepers are said to be vigilant to address any problems.

Integration of maintenance downskeeper: concerns expressed by the trainers’ representative about whether recent changes to staffing portended a threat to the level of support currently delivered by the downskeepers. He asked that arrangements be reviewed regularly. A member made the sensible point that pressures on the downs were increasing because of housing developments in the area, but there was no increased funding for downskeeping.

Events on the downs: approval was sought for four events on the downs – Omni Terrier Derby (28 August 2011), Cross Country League Race (12 November 2011), Tadworth Athletic Club 10 mile run (2 January 2012), and Rotary Club Sponsored Walk (13 May 2012). The racecourse said they needed to recover their costs of stewarding where this was provided, and a member asked if charges could be raised: the racecourse wanted the conservators to look at cost recovery. There was a possibility of other applications coming forward later in the spring. There was the usual criticism of excessive numbers of events (which appeared to be predicated on a misunderstanding of how many events had been approved – just three for the year not counting the four up for approval). It was agreed to review the strategy, and the limits on the number of events, at the next meeting. Meanwhile, the applications were approved. The Tadworth Athletic Club was criticised because the route adopted would encourage encroachment on the training areas and was timed to set up early in the morning: it was approved subject to set up beginning no earlier than noon. There was a lengthy discussion about the Race for Life, for which an application had only just been received. Probable numbers were above the threshold previously advised by the board. It was agreed that details submitted were too thin and too late to enable a decision to be taken by the board, but concern for the presentational implications of a refusal led to authorisation of the chairman to agree detailed plans. However, it seemed likely that the organisers would be told that the event would not be permitted subsequently. The public comments received on the refusal of the Oddballs’ Perch event were ‘noted’: one member, noted for her advocacy of refusals, said the comments were ‘valid’, which was odd.

Downskeepers’ hut: the racecourse said that they now had a proposal connected with the downskeepers’ accommodation which they wished to bring to the next meeting. This would involve some landscaping in the area to enable easier use of the land for raceday facilities, but also improve public amenity, improve fencing, and provide some funding for replacement accommodation. The works could be carried out early in the New Year. So no further action was taken on the report recommending refurbishment. However, a warning was sounded about potential planning permission issues. The chairman criticised the late announcement from the racecourse, and stressed that she wanted a detailed report for the next meeting.

Hack sand track: the report suggested that works costing £34k would be wasted in the long term and adequate structural works costing around £140k were needed to preserve the equine sand. The chairman said the report was clear, and the board didn’t need to go through it. It might be possible to spend capital savings from the downskeepers’ hut on the £140k works, and it was agreed to prepare a scheme for capital funding (but don't hold your breath). The treasurer said that the issue around health and safety was critical, and a case should address the board’s responsibilities. The trainers’ representative said that only spending the full £140k would protect the investment; recent maintenance had increased, and he suggested that summer maintenance should be adequately continued throughout the entire year. The head downskeeper said that maintenance couldn’t be done during the racing season, as they didn’t have time to do this, although they had done a good deal of flint picking by hand during the winter months. Officers said they would look at providing additional resource from grounds maintenance. Stone picking machines had difficulty collecting variable sized stones, and a membrane was needed to exclude stones. Spreading the sand around did not necessarily improve conditions for riders, even though the appearance was better. Option 1 was approved (care and maintenance – except during the summer it seems), and the contractors would be approached to refine their costings of the full £140k option.

Gypsy caravan site (Derby): the proposal was to adopt and construct a new entrance onto Langley Vale Road to better manage access to the gypsy caravan site, which was agreed.

Lower Mole Countryside Management Project: it was strongly agreed to “note the proposal made by Surrey County Council with regard to the level of support and financial contribution it provides the Lower Mole Countryside Management Project” and “That the Conservators express their views on the proposal and request the Clerk to respond to Surrey County Council appropriately.”

Date of next meeting: 27 June 2011.

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Meeting, 27 January 2011

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 27 Jan, 2011 22:02:14
Pedestrian access across the five furlong spur on Tattenham Corner Road: it was agreed that nothing could be done: it was all too difficult.

Dog control on the downs: it now seemed unlikely that the council would appoint an enforcement officer, and it’s clear that, beyond seeking a new byelaw, the head of steam behind a new initiative to influence dog walkers’ behaviour on the downs (or indeed anywhere else in the borough) has dissipated.

Hack sand track: more quotations for work are to be obtained for remedial works (inspections due next week), and advice will be given to the chairman and vice-chairman to reach a decision on approving tenders for the works. The vice-chairman confirmed that no contribution would be forthcoming from the Horse Race Levy Board.

Simon Dow’s report on hack riders’ misbehaviour: the report had not been circulated outside the board, but it was said that a leaflet would be produced to be given out by the downskeepers in the circumstances described.

Budget: expenditure of £353k forecast in 2011–12 (of which the council meets 60% of the contributions). Delivery of the habitat management plan is one of the risks identified from potential shortfalls in future years’ funding. The council undercharges for the provision of officer services to the conservators, which in effect subsidises the racecourse. Funding for the downs had not been identified by the council as a target for cuts at present.

Charging for car parking on the downs: a discussion booted off with a member suggesting that the public should not be charged for visiting open spaces (Ed: presumably, it’s OK to charge if they want to go shopping or visit the cinema and compare with, say, National Trust car parks). Any charges would need to be recycled into maintenance of the car parks. It was thought the car parks were adequately maintained at present (Ed: do any members use them, I wonder?), and the analysis of options was agreed to be discontinued.

Filming on the downs: filming for Wade In (apparently starring Bob Hoskins) was done on the downs last week, bringing in a fee (apparently, ‘half the fee’) of £1,000 to the conservators (Ed: presumably, the other half went to the racecourse).

Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB): the racecourse held a press morning in early January to highlight trainers’ performance in Epsom during 2010, with just short of £1m in prize money. Two articles appeared in The Guardian about training on the downs. Last year, there were an average 171 horses per month using the training grounds (200 in May), at the highest level for a decade. A new trainer, Olivia Maylam, has moved into Chalk Pit Stables in Headley Road. At the December meeting, the TGMB considered use of the hatched area (no change of course), and considered that improving facilities for hack riders on the downs, by restoring the hack sand track, should be addressed as soon as possible. The vice-chairman, as secretary to the TGMB, was in direct discussion with the hack riders about use of the hatched area (see here).

Byelaws and cycling: the recommendation to submit the byelaws for approval was agreed without any discussion, as was the recommendation not to consider any other proposals for changes to byelaws.

Habitat management plan for the golf course: the management recommendations were agreed without substantive comment (i.e. someone drew attention to the length of the plan), as was the need for a further meeting with the golf course to identify responsibilities for delivering the actions.

Extending the fencing period for the Derby: the clerk said she had received representations from the consultative committee and the Epsom Protection Society about the powers to grant an extension, but had set out her view in the report that the extension could be permitted. She acknowledged that the Act conveyed no specific powers to vary the fencing periods, she had concluded that it nevertheless had the power to do so. A member asked why the fencing needed to go up so early, and was told there was a huge amount to do, so that the fencing provided a secure area for additional works coming on site, and because it took time to put up the fencing. Health and safety requirements were now more onerous and the work could not be done in the time stipulated in the Act. An assurance was given that, during the build up period, the fencing would not exclude the public (Ed: though it was not clear how this was reconciled with the earlier stated need to provide a secure area. Meanwhile, it seems that the clerk's view is that the framework of the Act can be dispensed with when it doesn't suit any party, a handy principle which we will need to bear in mind).

Barbecues on the downs: the racecourse said it was not clear whether the byelaws, which prohibit the lighting of fires, applied to barbecues, which were part of the Derby event and Derby 'culture'. It was suggested that the conservators could decide to allow barbecues during racing events (but not on music evenings), but the clerk said that the Act only enabled the conservators to make byelaws, and byelaw 2(i)(g) simply prohibited lighting of fires, although that left open the question of enforcement. A member suggested that allowing barbecues at certain times would lead to abuse at other times. The racecourse said that barbecues on music evenings would be quickly clamped down on. The chairman was reluctant to ‘consent’ to barbecues on specific days only, but thought that it might be sensible to continue to turn a blind eye during events. That approach was endorsed after a heated discussion. (Ed: quite how the conservators could consent or not consent to a breach of the byelaws remained unclear, particularly since any aggrieved party may prosecute).

Ebbisham Lane: the clerk reported on the possibility of a repair notice to be served on the highway authority, under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980 (as we had previously suggested), and described the procedure. Following which, the chairman immediately moved on the discussion to the next item.

Reseeding of Tattenham straight: Nick Owen had asked that native species should be used, preferably seeded from other areas of the downs (regrettably, Nick Owen will be leaving the Lower Mole Countryside Project in March). The request was agreed, taking Nick Owen’s advice into consideration.

Management of staff: overtime payments needed to be reduced. It was proposed to integrate the maintenance downskeeper into the Streetcare section of the council’s operation services. A report was circulated at the start of the meeting, and although the agenda item was described as ‘confidential’, the public was permitted to remain, even though the discussion related to a particular member of staff. That person was reported content with the new arrangements (thought it was apparent this wasn’t the whole story). Agreed.

Downskeeper's hut: bizarrely, we were then asked to leave while the conservators discussed the future of the downskeeper's hut, even though this item hadn't been branded as confidential: an odd sense of what is and is not confidential. So the outcome is unknown for now.

Date of next meeting: 11 April 2011.


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Board Meeting, 25 October 2010

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 25 Oct, 2010 21:57:07
A bumper agenda which meant the meeting lasted two and three quarter hours.

TGMB: Andrew Cooper was not present, but it was reported that ground conditions did not permit the hatched area to be opened up. Increased income from horses in training allowed investment in some of the horse walks and railings.

Dog control: nothing further was reported.

Downskeepers' hut: the council's in-house surveyor was looking at options to make the hut more environmentally sustainable, as there is no money to replace it, and the heating costs are excessive.

Funding: at mid-year, the budget is heading for a modest £40k overspend, apparently owing to overtime incurred during race meetings, which the board hopes to recover from the racecourse. The chairman asked whether the Tattenham Corner Road toilets were disability-compliant, which they aren't, though no particular action was contemplated. Discussion moved on to the budget for 2011-12, in the context of the Spending Review. The racecourse said that funds raised by the Horserace Betting Levy had fallen by half, and there had been a substantial reduction in income from sponsorship and media: the racecourse could not sustain an increase in its contribution to the board, any more than the council. It was suggested that staff could be employed by the board (rather than the council) which could achieve VAT savings, or be integrated with the council's grounds maintenance service. Support from council officers could be reduced either nominally or in real terms (currently, all work done by officers is recharged), and work done during race meetings and other events could be recharged to the racecourse. It was noted that the downs were a specialist environment, where downskeepers were expected to have knowledge and training to look after horses in training. The treasurer was asked to look at all the possibilities and provide a more detailed report to the January meeting. [Editor's note: I'd guess that the treasurer was looking to pare down the options for study, so that he could concentrate on those which were likely to be favoured, but no such luck.] In response to a question, Bob Harding said that he had two staff on work duties and four on patrol. [Editor's note: demonstrating that two-thirds of the staff resource, and much else besides, are primarily deployed to look after horses in training.] A suggestion was made to introduce pay-and-display parking, and it was agreed this should be looked at too.

Race for life: there was continuing concern about litter left after the event. The racecourse will manage the race for life next year, and was keen to ensure that the costs of the clean-up were covered. Conditions can now be imposed to require a bond for reinstatement.

Sand track: concern was expressed that stone-picking and harrowing was having little effect: it was agreed that it did improve the surface, but it needed a more comprehensive solution. A quote had been received for work to upgrade the sand track, costed at £15-£23k, and two further quotes would be sought. Discussions continued with the Horserace Levy Board to further understand the history of the sand track, and how its initial provision was funded. There would then be a further discussion between officers on how to take forward. The quote was described by the chairman as 'not very good news'. One member asked whether the hack riders could make a contribution, while another member asked if the non-contributory principle for hack riding on the downs could be reviewed, or whether it might be possible not to provide the sand track at all? Another member pointed out that it would be difficult to collect contributions from a large number of yards and riders. It was suggested that the issue be considered at the forthcoming consultative committee meeting.

Damaged downs furniture: the racecourse suggested that, if asked, its maintenance team could be ready to carry out repairs to furniture damaged during race meetings.

Warning signs on Walton Road: some of the several signs at the foot of Six Mile Hill will be removed, it being acknowledged that there are too many.

Training incident: on Saturday, a local athletics club started to train alongside one of the main tracks. One of the coaches, informed that this was undesirable, declined to respond to advice given, and demonstrated an intention to continue regardless, leading to lengthy and Ugandan on-site discussions. The Leisure Developments Manager has since spoken to the chairman of the club, and been assured that it won't happen again: an alternative suitable site will be suggested for morning training. The next edition of Borough Insight will contain an article about the downs, addressing questions of potential conflict.

Epsom Live! concerts: this year's concerts had led to various incidents, including damage, rowdy behaviour, barbecues etc. A written complaint had been received from a local resident. Neighbouring property had been damaged. Officers had met with the racecourse to discuss the problem, with a meeting planned with the police on 3 November to explore potential mitigation of the impact of the concerts: it was suggested that it might be desired to reduce the number of people on the Hill. The racecourse said that the race meetings were not viable without the concerts: it did not wish to encourage people onto the Hill, but could not restrict people from using the downs, although it could (for example) restrict the view. It was taking a number of initiatives to discourage use of the downs at such times (though further examples were not given). The racecourse suggested it might want to review the 1984 Act to give it greater flexibility to control access. Litter pickers were sent out on the following day to deal with litter. One member criticised Chinese lanterns being released, and suggested that stewards should have taken action: the racecourse said legal clarification was needed as it wasn't necessarily open to the racecourse stewards to put a stop to it. Bins had been put out, but they had been knocked over. There had been large numbers of young teenagers attending, who lacked responsibility. There was no police presence at any of the events. It was noted that a report would follow to the next board meeting following officers' meeting with the police and racecourse.

Cycle routes on the downs: Two potential routes to be designated for cycling (under the proposed new byelaw) were discussed, as we had not been able to agree their exclusion with the cyclists' representative (although there had been a broad measure of agreement on most of the routes). The trainers' representative supported exclusion of the route past Downs House, criticised unofficial use of routes by cyclists across Six Mile Hill, which was scarring the grassland, and said that a policy for enforcement was needed to make clear what would be tolerated: the new byelaw would officially authorise horses encountering cyclists, and how would it deal with situations where cyclists might be expected to wait rather than push on? Another member asked whether the exclusion of the Downs House route and the route to the south of the Downs House enclosure would make abuse more likely? It should be stated on maps and signs that cycling on grassland was illegal (under the proposed byelaw). One route, between Longdown Road North golf club house and Burgh Heath Road (Wendover Stables), was agreed for designation as recommended, and another, descending Downs House Road to the valley path, was agreed not to be designated, but it was suggested that the foliage should be cut back on the first route. The map of authorised cycle routes was therefore approved.

Byelaws: it was agreed not to proceed with the model car byelaw, as there had been no recent complaints about nuisance (and there was a general byelaw to address nuisances), but to proceed with the cycling byelaw subject to the agreement of the consultative committee. There was a question over whether to wait until new legislation might remove the requirement to submit byelaws to the Secretary of State for confirmation, but it was agreed to proceed immediately.

Hatched area: a report was noted explaining the origin of the provision for hack use of the hatched area, and how maintenance responsibility might be attributed. The report said that there was no specific allocation of responsibility, although the Habitat Management Plan commended a cut of the grass once each year in thirds. The recommendation, that this existing maintenance regime be continued, was agreed without substantive debate. The racecourse said that part of the hatched area was used each winter from January to March for training use.

Events on the downs: a late paper was circulated. Some events were imminent, and there was concern that there was inadequate notice if the board wished to reject a proposal. The trainers' representative said that many tracks were unable to support intensive use without causing damage, and it was important that events adhered to the designated routes; there had been agreement to impose a ceiling on the number of events. One member said none of the events contributed to the upkeep of the downs, and suggested that none of the proposals should be allowed (this notwithstanding that the board had already agreed limits). Amid much confusion over what was being decided, the Epsom College cross-country events, which were close to the winter gallops (which would just have opened), just slipped through on the basis that the applications had been pending since the spring. The 26.2 Road Running Club proposal for 165 runners, and the Epsom Oddballs Club for 600 runners, were refused (no particular reason given, although the trainer's representative noted the oddity of the road running club wanting to run on the downs, and some account was taken of for how long each event had taken place on the downs). The Sponsored Poppy Walk (October 2011) was criticised as having a disproportionate impact with 2,500 walkers, and it was suggested that the Race for Life (June 2010) and the Poppy Walk were too big to both be allowed to take place (even though they are four months apart): how should such a decision be taken? The Race for Life was agreed in principle (with two members voting against), and the Poppy Walk was approved, with vague talk of a more discerning approach to be taken next year.

Gypsy site: a report had been prepared by the clerk about the provision of a gypsy site during the Derby festival, amid concerns about the site's management and impact. It was suggested that the board should take account of the likelihood of incursions elsewhere in the borough, if no site were provided, and the costs this would impose. Advice was to continue to provide a site but with tighter management through the imposition of conditions and better liaison with the temporary site manager. This was agreed, with the outcome to be reviewed the following year. A question was asked about whether the site charge of £80 covered the costs of the subsequent clear-up, but it was noted that the charge was reviewed each year, and could be increased if justified.

Ebbisham Lane: a report of issues arising from the meeting of the consultative committee was noted, but the discussion as to the possibility of a repair notice for the maintenance of Ebbisham Lane was not reported.

Extension of Derby fencing period: the extension granted last year had been questioned by the Epsom Protection Society, which had asked for a legal view on the powers, and the clerk asked what line the board would like her to take? It was agreed she would not give advice on past decisions, and that each decision was considered on its merits, but that future decisions should be related to the relevant part of the 1984 Act.

Cycling on bridleway 146: (bridleway alongside Langley Vale Road), signs restricting cycling had been removed as inconsistent with its status. The clerk would write to the council to clarify the status.

Comprehensive map of the downs: an updated version was circulated in A0 format. It was questioned whether the map should be adopted for the notice boards, or whether a more legalistic map was necessary to accord with the requirements of the 1984 Act. The board agreed that this map was preferred, but the Leisure Development Manager said she would seek further legal advice on its use for this purpose.

Use of motorised trolleys on golf course: the golf club had asked for the current limit of five to be abolished. The golf club has volunteered that no requests had been refused because of the ceiling, and so it was agreed to raise the ceiling to a maximum of ten.

Disabled parking facility: this had been requested by the model aircraft club, for the junction of Walton Road and Downs House Road. It was asked how use would be restricted, and what enforcement was envisaged? The arrangement would be monitored by the downskeepers.

Date of next meeting: 27 January 2011.

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Board Meeting, 21 June 2010

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 21 Jun, 2010 21:59:06
Chairman: Jean Smith was elected chairman and Andrew Cooper vice-chairman (I say 'elected', but oddly, there was no vote, show of hands or otherwise, only a nomination).

New downs manager: Samantha Beak was introduced as the new downs manager, replacing Sam Whitehead.

Byelaws: legal concerns were reported from Department for Communities over the wording of the proposed new byelaws, which would be considered at the next meeting.

Tattenham Corner Road crossing of the racecourse: more discussion about improving provision for pedestrians crossing the end straight of the racecourse, where there is no pavement. There were ideas for improvement (some photographs would have helped). The chairman lamented the absence of a representative from Surrey Highways (presumably, they don't have time to attend any more). Someone commented that the board had been here before, and that it should have been dealt with previously. The chairman asked whether everyone was happy with what the board had to do (though it was far from clear what that was), The vice-chairman was concerned about liability, and thought that the racecourse wouldn't be liable for any accidents. It was agreed that a small group of members would meet on site with Surrey Highways.

Dog control: the clerk had looked at dog control byelaws, and doubted that they could be enforced (which raises the question why the board is bothering with new byelaws at all?). Whereas a dog control order would very likely be uniform throughout the borough, and there would be greater familiarity with enforcement. It was asked whether there were still plans to accredit the downskeepers to enforce byelaws, and this was reported as under active discussion.

Maintenance of hack sand track: the agenda's suggestion that the clerk was going to give an oral update was declined by the clerk. The vice-chairman said he had forgotten the historic arrangement for maintenance between the conservators and the racecourse: he acknowledged that the hack sand track was 'hugely' lacking in material, and that perhaps the downskeepers were responsible for harrowing. He acknowledged that there would be a significant outlay. The chairman said it was getting worse and worse, and suggested that there should be an agreement as suggested by the vice-chairman. The clerk suggested the work should be costed, which would be done in conjunction with the racecourse, and reported to the next meeting.

Information leaflets: it was acknowledged that final versions of the information leaflets had not been circulated (as stated in the agenda), and that these would be sent to the board members and consultative committee members.

Final accounts: the board agreed to adopt a model publication scheme and guide to information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The head downskeeper had procured road-planings from Surrey County Council, at no cost, to improve the surfacing of the car parks. Bizarrely, the revenue account and balance sheet for 2009–10 were blank (and headed as at "31 March 2009"), but no-one said anything or even appeared to notice.

Derby 2010: no comments were invited nor passed on the head downskeeper's description of the post-Derby clean-up as having gone 'well' (personally, I'd disagree, having regard to the usual evidence of broken glass, spent barbecue sites, and generally a significant covering of small bits of litter on the Hill). The chestnut paling contractor had tried to start no fewer than four weeks before the event, and had been asked to return at the right time. In his oral report to the board, the chief executive of the racecourse said it was a 'fantastic day' in racing terms. He acknowledged impact on the local community, and said there was much to learn, and things that could be done as regards, for example, traffic management. The police had made only three arrests. He wanted to have an earlier meeting with local councillors next year. The head downskeeper mentioned 'tons and tons' of broken glass: another said it had been raised before. It was difficult to ban glass from the downs, but no-one drew the corollary that the racecourse needed better arrangements to clear it up.

Derby gypsy site: The vice-chairman said (unsolicited) that the regulating Act merely permitted use of the downs for a temporary gypsy site, and that the board should look at the options available to it, as it was not obliged to make provision. But others suggested that the impact on the borough would be much greater if no provision were made: there had been greater numbers and more trouble in past times: indeed, the clerk noted that the Act enabled provision for not less than 200 caravans (whereas only 55 or so sought accommodation this year). The clerk was asked by the chairman to produce "a balanced report which would hopefully come down on the side of no longer having a camp", and board members were asked to provide any relevant evidence. Editor's note: it was difficult to see that there were any new issues raised at the meeting, and as it was pointed out, the gypsy community has always been part of the Derby. So, first the funfair, next the gypsies?

Temporary closure of pedestrian subway: the racecourse said they had been asked to seek powers to close the subway by health and safety and the police, but would not necessarily act on them. One board member thought that discouraging racegoers from the downs would be seen in a very negative light by the local community. But it was approved just the same. Editor's note: even though the subway provides the substitute means of access to the Hill to the public footpath crossing which has long been obstructed.

Downskeepers' hut: a late paper was circulated, which appeared to amount to further delay in doing anything to improve or replace the present inadequate accommodation. It was agreed that any replacement should be on the present site, and not involve a move to the toilet block.

Date of next meeting: 4th October 2010

Date of conservators' downs tour: date yet to be adopted.

Friends of Epsom Downs: meet next on 14th August.


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Board Meeting, 15 April 2010

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 15 Apr, 2010 18:13:29
TGMB: met in early March, with "little to report" to the Board, and no "fresh information" to change its view on use of the hatched area. A letter from Pat Phelan was circulated, trainer at Ermyn Lodge (time was given for members to read this). It is proposed to use a new return route to the London Road crossing for horses in training on Six Mile Hill through the woodland at the top of the Hill: some clearance would be needed. It was suggested that a decision should be deferred to seek the hack riders' views, but Simon Dow said that a decision was needed urgently because it was a safety issue: there would be no impact on hack riders' rights, and hack riders would be allowed to use the route at other times (presumably, as a de facto afternoon route). Bob Harding, the head downskeeper, noted that there might be a problem with dogs exercised in the woods. It was decided to allow the chairman to make a decision after consultation with the consultative committee members, because the "conservators didn't want a complaint that they had done something without consulting the [hack riders]."

Access from Tattenham Corner Station to the Downs
: Andrew Cooper for the racecourse was firmly opposed to improvements to the crossing of the racecourse at Tattenham Corner Road, because this would mean sacrificing about a metre of the turf. Walking on the grass was not the answer. Safety concerns were acknowledged, but the conservators “had to accept that the racecourse said it couldn't be done”. It was suggested that part of the carriageway should be taken instead, but the highway authority did not consider it as an accident blackspot, although the suggestion would be put to it.

Dog control: nothing to report, as the lead officer, Sam Whitehead, was away ill. Simon Dow said there was a serious incident the previous day, with a horse chased and brought down by a small white terrier (the rider was OK, but the horse was injured). The clerk would discuss with Sam on her return. There was mention of a new byelaw (which rather ignores the previous advice about dog control orders). The chairman said that:"the principle thing is to avoid accidents to the horses." Simon Dow thought it was important to put something in place, even if it did not take effect for some years: e.g. no dog off a lead during training hours; the racecourse thought a new byelaw would show intent. But the head downskeeper warned that new rules would be hard to enforce, and routine enforcement could distract downskeepers from dealing with more imminent hazards, and create confrontation with some dog keepers. One conservator suggested designating part of the downs dog-free, and others contributed their concerns about the situation (although the focus was entirely on the threat to horses in training and the training industry). Leaflets and signs were preaching to the converted: education would be better. But there was strong support for better signage, and comparison was made to Richmond Park. Comment was made that breaches of the byelaws were never prosecuted. It was noted that there was a power to make byelaws, and the board decided that it wished to proceed with seeking a new byelaw (though there was no discussion of what that byelaw might say, or how it would improve on the current byelaw, or whether a new byelaw would be approved in view of the move towards dog control orders).

Onward rides from the downs: agreed to remove from the action list, since there was no prospect of action by the highway authority.

Downskeepers' hut: still no developments, which was generally agreed to be unsatisfactory.

Maintenance of hack sand track: again, no news, because the clerk had been on holiday. Andrew noted that there was an agreement at the time the sand track was put in relating to its maintenance, but it had not been found. He said it was in extremely poor condition, and unuseable in parts. It would take significant work and money to put right. A proposal was sought for the next meeting.

Ebbisham Lane: removed from the action list, as highway authority unwilling to act.

Jogger affects rider: a jogger unsettled a horse and rider in training near the downskeeper's hut, which has been reported in the local Guardian. The rider was dismounted shortly afterwards, and was taken to hospital. It was agreed that the downskeepers should be able to attend further horse awareness training to help in attending such incidents.

Friends of Epsom and Walton Downs: a smaller turnout, but a successful day, shortly before Easter.

The Warren Wood track between Walton Road and Grosvenor Road, and the track between Wendover Stables and the golf club house, have both been cleared of vegetation, following "recent events", which were described as simply the winter routine.

Damage to bridleway 65/66: contractors have been hired to restore damage caused by farm traffic (but it hasn't been done yet).

Old London Road: was shut temporarily the previous day ("with the trainers' agreement") for some resurfacing funded by the racecourse. The highway authority disclaim responsibility for maintenance, but the racecourse says that the borough council is liable to repair. Confirmation is being sought.

Events on the downs: Two charitable events were proposed for approval. Simon Dow complained that the routes were in practice sometimes set out on the downland, and in any case the impact of, say, 800 people running down these routes would inevitably cause spread onto the grass. A conservator suggested that an event of this kind would attract a similar number of cars. The board decided to refuse the Fix event on the grounds of adverse impact, but accepted that the Tadworth Athletic Club event was well established, and suggested that there should be further discussion with the organisers as to the route to keep it away from the gallops. Simon Dow also asked that the Race for Life should be made aware that the set-up time conflicted with the times during which horses would be in training (the racecourse said that the scale of promotion suggested that there would be a very large turn-out this year, although it was said that the number of participants had been firmly limited to 5,000).
[Editor's note: are these the same downs which host the Epsom Derby, with a crowd of over 100,000, and with another 13 race meetings this year? Is this the same board which approved plans for a commercial two day concert in the middle of the downs in 2009, attracting an audience of 50,000 over the weekend? To be fair, the Fix event would be in October, when the ground is less able to recover, but it was far from clear that this consideration drove the decision: it wasn't even mentioned.]

Applications for extension of racing period: Covered in the report, but no mention was made of the approval issued since the last meeting.

Date of next meeting: 21 June.

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Board meeting, 21 January 2010

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 21 Jan, 2010 21:00:54
Policing of the Derby: Supt Bristow attended the meeting to give an account of concern about policing of the 2009 Derby. The post-Derby report to the conservators was described as ‘bland’. Supt Bristow was not responsible for the Derby, but said he had spoken to those who were. He had had no feedback to suggest the event was worse than usual. Policing during the evening was unchanged from previous years. The relocation of the fair to the Hill changed the crowd dynamics which will be noted for the plan for 2010. There was some sporadic disorder in the vicinity of the fairground during the afternoon and officers attempted to deal with it: some bottles or cans were thrown, and appropriately trained officers responded, not dressed in riot gear, but wearing ‘code 2 dress’. This means that some elements of riot gear were worn, but they were not fully kitted out. He could not explain the use of sirens, but presumed that they were being used in relation to the disruption on the Hill. Arrests were very low. Questioned whether the racecourse’s primary responsibility for stewarding within the racecourse had had an impact, Supt Bristow said that the police had not relinquished responsibility for policing within the racecourse, and the stewards had no responsibility for criminal law enforcement: there was no ‘imaginary line’ beyond which the police did not go. There was criticism that the police presence in Langley Vale evaporated in the evening (although there were traffic wardens patrolling at 20:00!), and was needed until late. Andrew Cooper from the racecourse said there were no plans to move the fair back to its previous position: its decision was criticised by another conservator (but no-one thought to press a discussion on the subject, just as there was none at all when the racecourse announced its decision to the board last year).

Training Grounds Management Board: met on 9 December. It concluded that the hatched area remained unfit for use (no surprise again). Mark Berry, head of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council addressed the Board on planning and the racing industry. The trainers had reported a very successful year: the best in a decade, with 170 winners.

Rubbing House car parking extension: the proprietors have still not responded to a request from planners for further information.

Byelaw boards: the replacement boards will be ‘basic’ in design, similar to the present ones (so presumably just as user-unfriendly). Expected to be installed sometime during 2010-11.

Making use of the Tattenham Corner equestrian crossing: the highway authority has declined to take an interest, and the conservators weren’t going to either. Discussion sort of petered out.

Hack sand track: the clerk reported that she needed to meet with Andrew Cooper from the racecourse to discuss management of the sand track. Pity that the meeting hadn't taken place before.

Hack rides: Bob Harding reported that work had been done to clear overgrowth in Beech Wood (see blog report 14 November 2009) and Top Wood (not sure where that is, possibly east of Burgh Heath Road), and to maintain the openness of the rides on Juniper Hill.

Ebbisham Lane: Surrey highways continues to refuse to properly maintain the road, and pleads lack of funds.

Downs strategy: the clerk has reviewed the downs strategy to seek to bring it up to date, and a work plan will be prepared of actions (as has been done for Nonsuch Park).

New byelaws: the proposed byelaws for prohibiting the use of model cars on the downs and to prohibit cycling except on authorised routes was approved for consultation; in discussion of authorised routes for cycling, Simon Dow asked about use of Walton Road across Six Mile Hill, which he said was risky (but agreed could not be excluded, although alternative routes could be signposted by way of encouragement). There was no debate at all about authorising cycling on a considerable number of hack rides on the downs where use at the moment is simply tolerated or little known, despite detailed comments from the hack riders setting out our objections, and despite a board member later pointing out that the downs were unsuitable for cycling. This came about 20 minutes after the conservators had agreed that policy decisions should take account of impact on all users of the downs!

Downs leaflets: draft leaflets were presented for approval prior to publication. Despite endless comments, the leaflet for hack riders is still unsatisfactory, being presented on A5 paper, and with colouring which makes it very difficult to distinguish afternoon hack rides from all-day rides, but we're assured that there will be further revisions.

Closure of Old London Road: was authorised on 27 June 2010 for the Cancer Research UK Race for Life (this refers to New Road Work No 2, which runs round the inside of the racecourse). Some uncertainty whether this is actually within the gift of the conservators, or whether it's a public road.

Date of next meeting: fixed for 15 April 2010.

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