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.