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, 17 October 2013

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 17 Oct, 2013 20:40:14

TGMB: had met on Tuesday 15 October, and the only item to report was confirmation that there was no change in its view on use of the hatched area.

Saddling boxes: the permanent saddling boxes secured planning consent in September, and construction work will commence on 28 October, due to be complete by February.

Equestrian crossing opposite the entrance to Queen’s Stand: there had been some refurbishment work, but the width of the crossing was judged insufficient. There might be some s.106 funding available for works.

Code of conduct signs: the new signs should be delivered on 28 October, but will then need to be installed.

Walton Road: racecourse still working with Surrey Highways, but some issues need to be addressed internally by the racecourse.

Drainage works on roundabouts: there were delays to the works at Buckles Gap owing to concluding the legal process involving the golf club. A geotechnical investigation had been concluded at the Grand Stand Road roundabout, and works estimated to cost £56,000 were likely to be carried out this year. However, conservators’ consent would be required to works on the adjacent downs: it was agreed to assign authority to the clerk, chairman and ward councillor.

Downs House: sale was progressing well.

Tour of Britain cycle race: was said to be successful, with much prior work with the racecourse and others. Sportives (events taking place on the highway) were becoming more commonplace, but did not need permission. Up to 2–3,000 people could be involved, but there was no regulation, and not necessarily a governing sports body in control. [Ed: there appeared to have been a recent event which had attracted up to 2,000 cyclists and had caused ill feeling in local communities as well as among downs users.] The public assumed that the events were formally sanctioned. It was proposed to establish a working party to look at events which were using the facilities (particularly car parks) or highways, although it was accepted that they could not necessarily be halted: this proposal was agreed. Surrey was consulting on a new event strategy, which might involve lobbying to introduce laws to regulate sportives. One member suggested closing the car parks (this would require advance awareness of the event). Another event was expected in November.

Hack sand track: a meeting had been requested with the Horse Racing Levy Board to assess responsibility for maintenance and reinstatement, but it had been slow to respond.

Mid-year budget monitoring report: current year expenditure of £371,000 was compared to a budget of £343,000, but the excess was mainly accounted for by the contribution to the replacement of the downskeepers’ hut. There had been some additional expenditure on maintenance of the toilet block. A question was asked about the rise in the electricity bill by £100. It was confirmed the budget of £6,000 for the Derby gypsy site did not include proposals for toilet provision lower down the agenda. The board was asked to identify the main issues that should be addressed in the budget report in January 2014: there weren’t any. It was agreed that an assumption of a precept increase of 2% should be adopted for the purposes of planning next year’s budget.

Head downskeeper’s report: meetings with the hack riders and trainers were reported and welcomed. A proposal to acquire a defibrillator was approved.

Conflicts: it was reported that, “The Head Downskeeper and the Downs Manager have successfully dealt with couple of recent incidents between user groups, which if not resolved, had the potential to cause serious health & safety concerns.” One related to a traveller driving a pony and trap at speed across the downs, affecting a hack rider’s horse: the person responsible had given an undertaking not to repeat, although there had been a further sighting. The other related to a jogger who had inconvenienced the trainers on several occasions: the police had spoken to him, although it was said that he hadn’t broken any byelaws. The trainers’ representative said that incidents were on the rise because of the board’s inability to enforce byelaws: he thought that the jogger had breached the byelaws, because he had interfered with the trainers’ operations. He also commented that the trainers were not ‘user groups’: under the Act, he took the view that no member of the public could interfere with the training of racehorses. The chairman said that trainers had priority on the downs. The deputy clerk said that the terms of the Act would be reviewed to see how it applied to these situations. One member made a [Ed: predictable] call for more signage. Officers reported difficulty in enforcing byelaws on the public rights of way across the downs, quite apart from the general difficulty of obtaining names and addresses.

Winter work programme: a programme of work was circulated in hard copy.

New downskeepers’ hut: work continued but had been delayed. Estimated completion before Christmas, but certainly well overdue.

Proposed events on the downs: proposals for four events were considered: Downs Young Athletes Cross Country League (3 November, 1 December 2013, 23 February and 9 March 2014); Sunbeam MCC Pioneer Run (13 April 2014); North Cheam Baptist Church Easter Service (20 April 2014); Cancer Research UK Race For Life (29 June 2014). One member launched into a broadside against the Race for Life, summarising that ‘enough’s enough’. The trainers’ representative thought that the downs had reached saturation point, and had the same concerns about the Race for Life as the Tour of Britain cycling event. It was not just about the impact of the event itself, but its effect in drawing people back to the downs subsequently; the downs should be primarily for local people. The deputy clerk said that the proposal could be rejected if it did not comply with the downs’ policy, but that if the policy was faulty, that should be reviewed; the Race for Life was a category D event which should be considered on merits. Officers said that the Race for Life organisers claimed that many local people took part in the event. There was a similar event in Guildford. The racecourse said that the golf club was content if the course was not used for parking. The same member noted that the events were all being staged on Sunday mornings, and there should be a willingness to demand later times to avoid conflict with trainers: the trainers’ representative supported a later start, after 10:00. He asked for a review of the policy to address timing issues: a loose horse could easily lead to accidents. The first three events were approved, but with the first not to set up before 10:00. Discussion continued on the Race for Life. Officers explained that car parking was stewarded and could be arranged to avoid impact on the golf club. The organisers were keen to mitigate and minimise disruption, and were sensitive to trainers’ needs. The chairman commented that the participants were not necessarily so sensitive. The member asked how much damage was caused? The racecourse said that damage would occur, and be more severe if wet, but admitted that 120,000 people would congregate on the downs for the Derby earlier in the month [Ed: refreshing honesty not previously admitted in this context]. The trainers’ representative said that changing the hours did not help: it was a closed day for the trainers, and local people could not get around. They were supportive of the cause, but not the event. The member proposed a motion to refuse the event on grounds of disturbance to trainers and local people: however, no other members supported her, although the trainers’ representative said he sympathised with her view. [Ed: although the member was apparently isolated in a vote, it must be added that no-one actively argued to the contrary: so it was far from clear what the rest of the board thought.] The event was therefore approved. It was suggested that a brief should be prepared which the organisers could send to participants: officers agreed to discuss with the organisers.

Downs tour notes: it was noted that the TGMB didn’t currently have the funds to extend the poly track as planned.

Consultative committee: the chairman asked if the board had any issues they wished to raise on the minutes of the consultative committee. A meeting had taken place on the constitution, which would be referred back to the consultative committee before returning to the board. The chairman hoped the board would agree that they valued the work of the consultative committee even though not many comments were made: there were some murmurs of agreement, though no-one said anything further.

Metal detecting fees and charges: the board agree to the increased charge of £35 for an annual metal detecting licence. The deputy chairman asked whether the present 20 licences should be increased in number. There was demand for at least 30 licences. Officers explained that the number had been capped because of latent demand. One member suggested 50 licences. It was agreed to raise the number of licences to 35 [Ed: but without any discussion of impact on other downs users] with a review next year.

Temporary toilet facilities on the Gypsy Site during the Derby period: a proposal was advanced for this purpose, but with concern about costs if the equipment was returned damaged (an estimate of £7,500 was given). The chairman asked whether the racecourse should pay for the facilities, but it was observed that the board approved the existence of the gypsy site each year. The proposal was declined, but it was agreed that those using the site should be required to bring their own facilities [Ed: it wasn’t clear how this requirement would be enforced: will arriving gypsy families be challenged to bring out their portable conveniences for inspection?].



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