Hack writer

Hack writer

About this blog

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

Meeting, 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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