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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, 22 April 2014

ConservatorsPosted by Hugh Craddock 23 Apr, 2014 08:22:41

Langley Vale First World War Centenary Wood: a presentation was given by the Woodland Trust. The Trust is a member of the Imperial War Museum’s First World War centenary partnership. Langley Vale Wood (an interim name) is the largest proposed woodland creation site, and its purchase has been completed. It’s 250 hectares in area. and will accommodate 200,000 trees, but 40% of the site will remain unplanted, and many of those trees will be planted to restore existing hedgerows or create new green lanes. Views will be retained and accessibility will be retained. Open space will be managed as wild flower meadows on chalk grassland habitat, using grazing on large parts of the site. Poppies will be a dominant theme, which will call for some arable cultivation. There will be a designated memorial area consistent with the natural features, although the design has not yet been done. The site will be open to the public, with several kilometres of hard surfaced paths, horse and cycle paths. Some paths will be mown, and waymarked routes will be established. There will be interpretative features and volunteering opportunities. The trust wants to work with schools and community groups, e.g. on tree planting. A tidy-up will begin now, removing pheasant pens, litter, fencing. Some wildflower seeds will be sown this summer, with initial planting in the autumn on a community planting day. Site infrastructure will be installed in 2015–16, and the memorial area established in 2016. The farm will continue to be managed on an agricultural basis for the next 12 months. The site is technically open to the public, but access is not being promoted.

The project cost is £9 million, with a total cost for all four sites of £20 million. The local appeal had already reached half way (£50,000), and discussions were underway with local businesses. Local funding would leverage ten times as much national support.

Asked about existing woodland, the Trust said there was extensive hazel coppice on the site, and this would be managed (though not necessarily all of it, owing to resource constraints). The Trust expected parking to be accommodated off Headley Road, where sight lines for traffic were good: this conclusion had been influenced by discussions with Surrey as highway authority. There would be no full-time staff on site, save for a possible visitor centre as regards which decisions were yet to be made. There could be a strong volunteering presence. Visitor numbers were expected to decline after the centenary period.

Walton Road: planning permission was awaited for surfacing works on Langley Vale Road.

Langley Vale residents: concern had been expressed by residents about trainers’ practices. A meeting had taken place, and there had been a desire on the part of local residents for more information [Ed: this wasn’t explained further], and a reminder to trainers to discourage distractions (e.g. smoking) by riders.

Code of conduct signs: two additional signs had been ordered, after which further consultation will take place on siting (one is likely near Langley Vale village).

Hack sand track: the clerk apologised that matters had not been moved forward, and had scheduled a meeting on 15 May with the relevant parties to seek a solution.

Equestrian crossing opposite the entrance to the Queen’s Stand: one option was to recycle the existing signs on Burgh Heath Road, where they now had little use as the trainers did not use the road, although it was said that the signs could still confer a benefit on a livery stable. However, it was suggested that the signs would not be appropriate to the Ashley Road site.[Ed: Indeed: the signs warn of the presence of riders on the road, with manually controlled alternate flashing yellow lights, which were presumably operated manually by whichever yard was intended to benefit from them. They are completely inappropriate to the crossing on Ashley Road, so there’s not the slightest chance of their being resited.]

Downs House: the marketing agents, Bidwells, have revisited the original bids and invited new expressions of interest. A report was expected to a special meeting of Strategy and Resources committee in May to seek authority on how to proceed.

Review of Epsom Downs Habitat Management Plan: will be reviewed by a borough council officer.

Signposting of the Round the Borough Hike and Bike route: it was agreed to mark the route on its circuit of the downs. It was stated that the route followed only public rights of way [Ed: which is incorrect].

Downskeepers’ hut: this had now been commissioned. It was asked whether there was any identification of the hut’s role, and it was confirmed that details had been painted on the structure. The Lower Mole Countryside Project would consider whether more permanent signage could be provided. A formal opening would be proposed. Apparently, the handbasin is too small for the burly downskeepers, so the chairman wants it replaced.

Events on the downs: six events had been submitted for approval, and were approved [Ed: with hardly a peep from the board, save that one member said she’d refuse permission for the lot, but took it no further. This included the Race for Life: no doubt there will be much hand wringing later this year about next year’s Race, but it will still end up being approved].

Constitution of consultative committee: the clerk noted that a working group was formed in 2012, and had subsequently met with the clerk and chairman, before proposals were brought to the consultative committee in March this year. It was noted that the promoters of the 1984 Bill had given a commitment to establish such a committee to include (apart from the statutory interests, only) representatives of horse riders for the purposes of consultation on the future management of the rides, tracks and paths for horse riding.

Angela Clifford gave a short presentation on the purpose of the revision of the constitution, including to review the membership of the committee.

Proposal A, on whether the committee supports or advises the board, and proposal B, which extended the committee’s remit to consider appearance and biodiversity, were thrown open for discussion. The vice chairman said that there was no need to review the objects in the current constitution. Another member agreed, saying that appearance and biodiversity were too prescriptive. Proposal B was therefore rejected, and proposal A appeared to fall without a word being said either way.

Proposal C, on extending membership to local residents’ associations, was discussed. One member proposed to sustain the present position. The chairman said that EDMAC had made a strong case to be included [Ed: the Epsom Downs Model Aircraft Club had written to the board objecting to its exclusion from membership of the consultative committee], but the clerk boldly said she had concerns about including one group without consideration of others [Ed: this appeared to overlook that the report had presented various groups’ membership, including EDMAC’s, as a fait accompli, but this seemed to be a step too far for the board]. It was agreed to make no change to membership. Proposal D (consequential changes to those invited to attend) was therefore rejected as unnecessary. However, this was later clarified to include, among those invited to attend, the additional bodies originally lined up for membership.

The chairman said that any issues identified by the consultative committee meetings were brought up to the board efficiently and effectively, and nothing it said was ignored. There would therefore be no disadvantage to the committee by rejecting changes.

Proposal G, to codify practice for personal representation of specific matters identified by the committee at the next board meeting, was endorsed by one member, and the chairman said this would be sensible [Ed: this was odd, since the chairman had been adamant at the consultative committee meeting that it was entirely unnecessary]. This was agreed.

Proposal F, on requisition of special meetings, the chairman said that she could use discretion to bring matters before the committee. The clerk expressed concern about additional meetings and the resource necessary. A member said that the status quo was best. Proposal F therefore was rejected.

It was also decided to retain the quorum at three members.

One member said, belatedly, that she wanted to thank the committee for its work on the constitution.

[Ed: so there we are: eighteen months of admittedly desultory analysis by the working group, with virtually nothing to show for it. Pity that no-one said they wanted to ‘maintain the status quo’ at the beginning of the exercise.]

Minutes of the consultative committee: these had been circulated, but there were no comments. [Ed: which sums it up really: the chairman couldn’t see any need to mention anything at all worth mentioning arising from the last consultative committee meeting.]

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