Chairman: Jean Smith was elected chairman and Andrew Cooper vice-chairman (I say ‘elected’, but oddly, there was no vote, show of hands or otherwise, only a nomination).
New downs manager: Samantha Beak was introduced as the new downs manager, replacing Sam Whitehead.
Byelaws: legal concerns were reported from Department for Communities over the wording of the proposed new byelaws, which would be considered at the next meeting.
Tattenham Corner Road crossing of the racecourse: more discussion about improving provision for pedestrians crossing the end straight of the racecourse, where there is no pavement. There were ideas for improvement (some photographs would have helped). The chairman lamented the absence of a representative from Surrey Highways (presumably, they don’t have time to attend any more). Someone commented that the board had been here before, and that it should have been dealt with previously. The chairman asked whether everyone was happy with what the board had to do (though it was far from clear what that was), The vice-chairman was concerned about liability, and thought that the racecourse wouldn’t be liable for any accidents. It was agreed that a small group of members would meet on site with Surrey Highways.
Dog control: the clerk had looked at dog control byelaws, and doubted that they could be enforced (which raises the question why the board is bothering with new byelaws at all?). Whereas a dog control order would very likely be uniform throughout the borough, and there would be greater familiarity with enforcement. It was asked whether there were still plans to accredit the downskeepers to enforce byelaws, and this was reported as under active discussion.
Maintenance of hack sand track: the agenda’s suggestion that the clerk was going to give an oral update was declined by the clerk. The vice-chairman said he had forgotten the historic arrangement for maintenance between the conservators and the racecourse: he acknowledged that the hack sand track was ‘hugely’ lacking in material, and that perhaps the downskeepers were responsible for harrowing. He acknowledged that there would be a significant outlay. The chairman said it was getting worse and worse, and suggested that there should be an agreement as suggested by the vice-chairman. The clerk suggested the work should be costed, which would be done in conjunction with the racecourse, and reported to the next meeting.
Information leaflets: it was acknowledged that final versions of the information leaflets had not been circulated (as stated in the agenda), and that these would be sent to the board members and consultative committee members.
Final accounts: the board agreed to adopt a model publication scheme and guide to information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The head downskeeper had procured road-planings from Surrey County Council, at no cost, to improve the surfacing of the car parks. Bizarrely, the revenue account and balance sheet for 2009â€“10 were blank (and headed as at “31 March 2009”), but no-one said anything or even appeared to notice.
Derby 2010: no comments were invited nor passed on the head downskeeper’s description of the post-Derby clean-up as having gone ‘well’ (personally, I’d disagree, having regard to the usual evidence of broken glass, spent barbecue sites, and generally a significant covering of small bits of litter on the Hill). The chestnut paling contractor had tried to start no fewer than four weeks before the event, and had been asked to return at the right time. In his oral report to the board, the chief executive of the racecourse said it was a ‘fantastic day’ in racing terms. He acknowledged impact on the local community, and said there was much to learn, and things that could be done as regards, for example, traffic management. The police had made only three arrests. He wanted to have an earlier meeting with local councillors next year. The head downskeeper mentioned ‘tons and tons’ of broken glass: another said it had been raised before. It was difficult to ban glass from the downs, but no-one drew the corollary that the racecourse needed better arrangements to clear it up.
Derby gypsy site: The vice-chairman said (unsolicited) that the regulating Act merely permitted use of the downs for a temporary gypsy site, and that the board should look at the options available to it, as it was not obliged to make provision. But others suggested that the impact on the borough would be much greater if no provision were made: there had been greater numbers and more trouble in past times: indeed, the clerk noted that the Act enabled provision for not less than 200 caravans (whereas only 55 or so sought accommodation this year). The clerk was asked by the chairman to produce “a balanced report which would hopefully come down on the side of no longer having a camp”, and board members were asked to provide any relevant evidence. Editor’s note: it was difficult to see that there were any new issues raised at the meeting, and as it was pointed out, the gypsy community has always been part of the Derby. So, first the funfair, next the gypsies?
Temporary closure of pedestrian subway: the racecourse said they had been asked to seek powers to close the subway by health and safety and the police, but would not necessarily act on them. One board member thought that discouraging racegoers from the downs would be seen in a very negative light by the local community. But it was approved just the same. Editor’s note: even though the subway provides the substitute means of access to the Hill to the public footpath crossing which has long been obstructed.
Downskeepers’ hut: a late paper was circulated, which appeared to amount to further delay in doing anything to improve or replace the present inadequate accommodation. It was agreed that any replacement should be on the present site, and not involve a move to the toilet block.
Date of next meeting: 4th October 2010
Date of conservators’ downs tour: date yet to be adopted.
Friends of Epsom Downs: meet next on 14th August.