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, 18 April 2013

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 18 Apr, 2013 21:49:33

Downs House: the clerk said the council’s strategy and resources committee had appointed Bidwells as the agent to market the house, on the basis of freehold or leasehold disposal, but with a strong preference for retention for horse racing. Marketing will be launched at the Derby festival.

Walton Road: no arrangements had yet been decided, and two options were being reviewed by the racecourse.

Flooding at roundabouts: the county council was currently preparing a legal agreement for the works to alleviate flooding at the roundabout at Buckles Gap. Investigation into a remedial design for flooding at the grandstand roundabout was expected to be concluded soon, but uncertainty as to whether the work could be funded in the present financial year.

Tour of Britain cycle race: the downs will host the start of the race on 21 September, notwithstanding the objections of the trainers. A working group will be established to help organise the event, and to co-ordinate its promotion.

Training Grounds Management Board: met on 18 February, attended by Nick Healey from the county council to discuss highways issues including the equestrian traffic lights on Ashley Road.

Management of the downs: meetings had taken place involving all the downs managers, including the golf course and the council officers, and more effective arrangements had been agreed to be incorporated into the management plan.

Downskeepers’ hut: a revised proposal, for rebuilding the downskeepers’ hut, at less cost than the earlier proposal for a portable cabin, was approved, at a cost of £86,000, of which £30,000 would be met from the precept on the council and £21,000 from the conservators’ funds. It was hoped to begin construction after the Derby, in time for the winter. The Treasurer proposed that there should be a legal agreement, as the building would be on racecourse land. [Regrettably, the new building, although slightly larger than the present, will have no improved facilities for visitor reception.]

Events: five events were approved for the year ahead: Welsh South East Combine Pigeon Liberation (18 May, 17 and 24 August 2013, The Omni Terrier Derby (25 August 2013), Epsom College Cross Country Event (21 November 2013), Tadworth Athletic Club ‘Tadworth 10’ (5 January 2014), Rotary Club of Banstead Sponsored Walk (11 May 2014). One member expressed concern about the ‘destruction of our downs’ promoted by events involving up to 700 participants [Ed: unaccountably, this member had nothing to say about the decision to host the Tour of Britain cycle race, which will attract thousands. And equally unaccountably, the conservators are for the first time attempting to extract £900 in fees from the various event organisers, without any legal basis for charging.] Questions were asked about the Race for Life (30 June 2013), which was not before the board. It was explained that the event had already been authorised, but the organisers were aware of reservations regarding approval for 2014.

Chairman’s report: the chairman introduced the report for the 2012–13 year. Mention was also made of the unveiling of the memorial on the downs, earlier in the day, to Emily Davison.

Racing season: agreement was given to “for consent under the Byelaws to bring forward the start of the fencing period for the Upper Tattenham Enclosure for the Derby festival to 7 May 2013.” The racecourse wanted to start as early as possible. Access will continue to be allowed to these areas: in particular, an entrance and exit to the Lonsdale enclosure. The racecourse also wanted to keep the fencing around the Lonsdale enclosure throughout the summer. This was on the basis that fencing on the downs is unlawful under the byelaws, unless authorised under the 1984 Act. Consent would save the racecourse time and money. It was explained that the Lonsdale fencing could be done in a weekend, the Upper Tattenham enclosure fencing in around four to five days. One member pointed out that the fencing was ugly, and continuously present during the summer: agreement each year meant it became the norm. Another questioned whether the extension for the Upper Tattenham enclosure was required because of the works: it wasn’t. Officers said that the fencing did not cause any operational difficulties, but that the Lonsdale enclosure was a hack area, and the opening should be sufficient to allow access to hack riders. A member proposed that one of the extensions for the Upper Tattenham enclosure should be pared back to allow a further unenclosed weekend, so that fencing would be allowed from the 13 May vice 7 May. [Ed: Unexpected engagement from council members on the applications. But consent under the byelaws sidesteps the constraint that the 1984 Act doesn’t provide for fencing of the Upper Tattenham Enclosure to be brought forward or for the Lonsdale Enclosure to be retained: the fact that any question of an offence under the byelaws has been swept aside does not render lawful the fencing itself: it still lacks authority under the Act, which is exceptionally prescriptive as to what the racecourse may or may not do.]

Proposed fencing on 3rd tee of golf course: there was some discussion over whether a low fence was necessary, and a hedge would not be a sufficient alternative. There was concern over the lack of discipline among course members. The golf course’s proposal was described as a crude solution, and the club was asked to consider alternatives, which might include temporary fencing to protect a young hedge.

Epsom and Walton Downs Consultative Committee: the minutes of the meeting of the consultative committee held on 18 March 2013 were considered. [Ed: the board took precisely 25 seconds to consider the minutes.]

Code of conduct signs: a near final draft of the signs was displayed to the board, and it was proposed to place an order once the byelaws had been approved. It was approved with a minor adjustment, but the chairman discouraged further discussion, as it had already been considered a number of times.

Hack sand track: this item was taken after the exclusion of the public.

Date of downs tour: 30 July at 1430.

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