Hack writer

Hack writer

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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, 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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