A rather frosty meeting, overshadowed by the absence of the long-time clerk to the conservators, David Smith, who is ill in hospital.

Hack riders’ leaflet: this is the last of a series of leaflets for downs users to be agreed, and all of them should be published soon on the council’s website. The hack riders’ leaflet will include a new map of the hack rides and areas on the downs, and should be easier to read than the present one.

Rides on Juniper Hill: lots more work has been done by the downskeepers to open up long-blocked rides on Juniper Hill. Following on from the opening of the north-south ride late in the summer, the east-west ride has also been opened up, which strikes out west from ‘bridleway 65’ and heads across the hill to emerge on the grassland on the crest of the hill, with views across to Six Mile Hill. Both these rides will be marked with posts in the near future. Opening up the east-west ride is expected to deliver nature conservation benefits too, reversing some of the scrub encroachment which had been threatening the grassland. Our thanks to the downskeepers for their hard work on this.

Race for Life: this fund-raising event will take place next year on 28 June 2009. The chairman confirmed that the event represents ‘a significant degree of interference with the rights of the public of access for air and exercise’ (as described in the proviso to section 10(2) of the 1984 Act), meaning that the concert can now only significantly interfere with public access on just four days. That will be a challenge: after all, the concerts will take place on two days, leaving just two days for assembly and disassembly to the extent that what remains no longer constitutes a significant interference.

Concert: we gave one month’s notice of some legal questions about the board of conservators’ powers to authorise the concerts, but even so, the chairman was unable to provide any answers, and batted them over to Andrew Cooper from the racecourse. He sensibly sent them straight back, pointing out that questions about the conservators’ own powers were for the conservators, not the racecourse. So we’ll have another go, in correspondence.

Bridleway 65 diversion: Andrew also agreed that the gap at the northern end of the diversion looked a bit narrow, and will see what adjustments can be made. The downskeepers will re-erect the ‘racehorses only’ sign in a more sensible location, and Andrew is to consider whether a baffle is needed to stop horses in training escaping through the gaps out on to Epsom Lane North.

The hatched area: the chairman reported that the Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB) had met on September 8, when it was ‘their unanimous view that the Hatched Ground should not be used for riding after noon, due to concerns over its current conditions and because such opening up would prejudice the maintenance and use of the training gallops’. So we’ve asked the TGMB to tell us:
* how conditions have changed since the agreement in 1984 that the hatched area should be used by hack riders ‘when conditions permit’;
* what conditions would allow such use;
* who is responsible for maintaining the area to enable conditions fit for use?
After all, the 1984 agreement was surely given in good faith, in anticipation that the hatched area would be fit for use at least some of the time. Yet, oddly, it never has been. Andrew admitted that some of the hatched area would be used for training over the winter: odd, really, that it’s fit for training purposes, but not for hacking?