Chairman: Liz Frost was elected chairman, and Simon Durrant vice-chairman, to no-one’s surprise.
Hack sand track: the Horse Race Levy Board had finally responded to correspondence, and said it wished to resolve matters in anticipation of the transfer of regulatory functions to the Gambling Commission. The clerk confirmed that the board agreed with this perspective.
Training Grounds Management Board: the number of horses in training is unchanged, with the number of winners slightly higher. A new call-button for the equestrian crossing at the Queen’s Stand has now been installed. The hatched area is again open for use by hack riders during the afternoon. There is an initiative to improve accommodation for trainers’ staff.
Gypsy camp site: a question was asked about the timing of the opening of the site during Derby week. It was stated that the camp on Court Recreation Ground had no intention of moving to the downs.
Derby race meeting: this was the 239th race meeting. Planning worked well, with good commitment from all partners, and generally good weather. There was little negative feedback from trainers. Clean-up was said to be ‘really, really good’. Friday was busier than last year, and Saturday was said to have achieved the numbers in 2015, after a dip in intervening years.
Parking in front of the Derby Arms: the chairman introduced a lengthy paper with seven annexes, following a local consultation earlier in the year, about parking in front of the Derby Arms (Ed: arrogantly described in the report as ‘car park 6’, as if that were the land’s primary purpose). The racecourse also wished to use the land on the south side of Ashley Road also bounded by the racecourse and Langley Vale Road for parking (‘car park 2a’). The chairman drew attention to the responses from the Civic Society and the British Horse Society. The trainers’ representative said that use of car park 2a was giving rise to weekly conflict not consistent with the statistics reported of use of this area reported by the racecourse. He had concerns about safety unless there was very careful policing. The chairman said that conditions could be imposed about use of the area to protect horses in training. The racecourse said that the two car parks had been used throughout the preparatory period, and the statistics were recorded to the best of staff ability. Statistics would continue to be recorded.
A member said she was concerned that land should not be given up to commercial use as pressure increases on open space in the borough: it could be used a few times a year but not all year round. The chairman questioned what was meant by ‘commercial’ use, and the member said it was a commercial company using the open space: she did not wish to see a car park at the top of the downs every time one passed that way. The clerk said there were several options, including to grant with conditions, such as to limit the number of events. The statistics for the previous year suggested that conditions could best be achieved through a management plan.
The trainers’ representative asked on what terms support was sought for car park 2a: the chairman said that there were options to refuse, approve without limitation, or approve with conditions such as no more than 40 days per year (which could be divided between the two car parks). Another member suggested that the areas should be used only when the existing car parks were full, and that car park 6 should be used in preference to car park 2. The racecourse said that was already the practice. The chairman said that a preference between car park 2 and 6 ought to be a matter for consideration in a management plan. There were issues with use of the two areas by horses in training and by hack riders: the management plan could take account of those interests. The clerk said the racecourse would be asked to put forward a management plan, which could be approved either by officers or the board. A member said that she would wish to see the management plan before it was approved. The clerk offered an alternative of a year’s implementation with a review to follow.
A member said that the board had a duty to protect the downs, but also wished to foster the vitality of the racecourse: he did not wish to approve the management plan. Some 40 days would not represent an intensification of use. A member asked what control would be placed on people parking in the areas: the clerk said that they were not regulated and would be free car parks. The racecourse said that a barrier prevented access to car park 6, while car park 2 was freely open: anyone could drive on to it [Ed: we think there used to be a barrier across the paved access over a dropped kerb here]. It would be difficult to issue badges, as users were ad hoc. The chairman said this could be looked at later on if regulation were needed.
The trainers’ representative did not wish to give a long-term commitment to use of car park 2, because of the potential for conflict, and asked about proposed marshalling. The clerk proposed an annual review of the arrangements, as currently done for events on the downs. A member asked what would be the impact on the racecourse if the application were refused? Who would enforce any conditions imposed? Insufficient consideration had been given to the proposals. The clerk said that refusal of consent would not necessarily prevent use of the car parks as there were no restrictions to achieve this [Ed: it is not clear whether the clerk was referring to physical restrictions or legal restrictions, but is wrong in either case.] A member asked if a review in one year would allow for withdrawal of any consent? The clerk said that the consent could be time limited to one year from the date of approval of the management plan.
A member supported the BHS legal analysis that the board had no power to approve the proposals. The clerk said this argument had been rebutted in the report. The member also questioned why there were no barriers in place at present? The clerk said that the racecourse’s application was intended to rely on the board’s duty to balance the interests in the downs, set out in para.2.10 drawn ‘from the legislation’. A vote to refuse was supported by one member, there was no support for unconditional approval, and a significant majority to approve with conditions [Ed: presumably with the management plan to be approved by officers vice members: the member’s proposal to scrutinise the draft management plan was not mentioned at this point].
Hack riders’ map: it was asked whether the map would be posted on the downs, as well as produced in leaflet form. A member asked how users would understand the rubric about use of the hatched area, and whether reference should be made to signs on site. There was some discussion about publicising the new map and raising awareness, and the board might revert to this at a future meeting. A member said that conflict was sometimes caused by other users being unaware of the extent of the hack rides. Agreement to publish.
Forward plan: a member suggested the board should consider the potential for future live music events. The chairman said this was a matter for the racecourse.