Horseman’s Sunday: the conservators want to see a risk assessment for future events: such are the problems arising from gypsies’ use of the downs on Horsemen’s Sunday for trotting races, that the future looks uncertain. As the organisers have not yet requested permission to hold the event this year, no decision was made.

New downskeeper: Bob Harding has been appointed from among the downskeeping team as head downskeeper. Congratulations to Bob!

Replacement byelaw boards: the conservators want to use funds from the planning agreement (a ‘section 106 agreement’) for the new hotel on the downs, but have run into trouble with the council’s planning officer, presumably because the conservators are obliged to maintain byelaw boards, and shouldn’t need to raid the planning pot of money for that purpose. Approval will be sought from a council committee in July, so there will be no new byelaw boards, nor the new information panels, until the autumn.

Concert: it’s still uncertain whether this will go ahead in 2010, as some key documents haven’t been signed, but a meeting has been scheduled for 23 April to determine an application just the same. We have already commented.

Radio controlled cars: use of these is a problem in some areas (particularly in the car parks), and legal advice was given that the existing byelaws could be used to take action, but only if annoyance was proved to other downs users. Simon Dow said that there was regular interference with training, and that it was also a threat to hack riders. The downskeepers said it was difficult to take action unless there was a complaint, because of the way the byelaws were framed. The clerk said it wasn’t difficult to change the byelaws, if that’s what the conservators wanted, and the conservators asked for this to be done. Pity no-one thought about what other byelaws could do with an update at the same time, especially as changes may be needed to the byelaws on dogs (see below).

Hot air balloon: permission was given to tether a hot air balloon on the downs during the afternoon of the spring meeting.

Training Grounds Management Board: the chairman said she had nothing to report of any interest. Goodness knows what they actually discuss there, as it’s not the first time that the chairman’s has delivered a null report!

Fencing: the conservators agreed a new policy for approving proposals for fencing on the downs, where the conservators are required to approve fencing under the 1984 Act. This looks like an improvement on what has happened in the past, when fencing has been put up (e.g. to demolish the totaliser board) without any permission.

Dog control: it was explained that a new dog control strategy was needed across the borough, and not just on the downs: this was a high priority for the conservators and the council. Simon Dow explained the risk to horses, their owners and their riders. Head downskeeper Bob Harding thought it would be hard to secure enforcement, but the results, if successful, would transform the downs for its users. Conservators asked about timescales for implementation and whether there were potential quick wins, but were told that the strategy needed to be dealt with as a whole, rather than piecemeal, and there would be progress reports at future meetings.

Metal detecting: the conservators approved new arrangements for restricting metal detecting: the map showing where it will be allowed, including digging to extract finds, looked like it coincided pretty much with the hack areas: nobody thought to comment on this. Apparently, it’s fine to dig up the hack rides, but not acceptable on the golf course, the training areas, or even on Juniper Hill!

Derby week fair: the racecourse has decided not to allow a fair on the downs during Derby week this year, apparently because of past ‘disorder’, but it seems its decision was somewhat influenced by the prospect of securing more parking places attracting more income. True, the fair is pretty unpopular with many local residents, but not one conservator thought to question the wisdom of abolishing this historic element of the Derby week in favour of an additional car park.

Extension of preparatory period for Derby fencing: agreement was given to allow yet another four days for fencing in the Upper Tattenham area, which means the loss of use to hack riders of the ‘platform’ alongside the racecourse still earlier. Sadly, no-one ever questions the need for these derogations, they just go through on the nod. Indeed, the conservators spent rather longer discussing arrangements for the conservators’ complimentary admission to race meetings (they get free admission to the Queen’s or Duchess’ grandstand at every race meeting throughout the year). Surprisingly, only the chief executive of the racecourse, Nick Blofeld, could see that some might think the level of hospitality open to criticism.

Gypsy site on the downs: this will open on Friday 29 May. In theory, there will be a ban on quad bikes.

Date of next meeting: special meetings will be held on 23 April (to approve the concert application) and on 23 June (to approve the accounts), with the next general meeting on 22 July

Date of conservators’ downs tour: 7 July at 14:30 (the same day as the consultative committee meeting).