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 work.
Epsom Downs Racecourse Flattening Works: the Lonsdale stand had been demolished. Chalk was being supplied from a quarry in Kent.
Downskeepers’ Hut: a capital bid was being considered and would be brought to the board in January.
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]
Event applications: 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 downs).
Consultative committee tour of downs: no comments made.
Constitution of 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.