Pedestrian access across the five furlong spur on Tattenham Corner Road: it was agreed that nothing could be done: it was all too difficult.

Dog control on the downs: it now seemed unlikely that the council would appoint an enforcement officer, and it’s clear that, beyond seeking a new byelaw, the head of steam behind a new initiative to influence dog walkers’ behaviour on the downs (or indeed anywhere else in the borough) has dissipated.

Hack sand track: more quotations for work are to be obtained for remedial works (inspections due next week), and advice will be given to the chairman and vice-chairman to reach a decision on approving tenders for the works. The vice-chairman confirmed that no contribution would be forthcoming from the Horse Race Levy Board.

Simon Dow’s report on hack riders’ misbehaviour: the report had not been circulated outside the board, but it was said that a leaflet would be produced to be given out by the downskeepers in the circumstances described.

Budget: expenditure of £353k forecast in 2011–12 (of which the council meets 60% of the contributions). Delivery of the habitat management plan is one of the risks identified from potential shortfalls in future years’ funding. The council undercharges for the provision of officer services to the conservators, which in effect subsidises the racecourse. Funding for the downs had not been identified by the council as a target for cuts at present.

Charging for car parking on the downs: a discussion booted off with a member suggesting that the public should not be charged for visiting open spaces (Ed: presumably, it’s OK to charge if they want to go shopping or visit the cinema — and compare with, say, National Trust car parks). Any charges would need to be recycled into maintenance of the car parks. It was thought the car parks were adequately maintained at present (Ed: do any members use them, I wonder?), and the analysis of options was agreed to be discontinued.

Filming on the downs: filming for Wade In (apparently starring Bob Hoskins) was done on the downs last week, bringing in a fee (apparently, ‘half the fee’) of £1,000 to the conservators (Ed: presumably, the other half went to the racecourse).

Training Grounds Management Board (TGMB): the racecourse held a press morning in early January to highlight trainers’ performance in Epsom during 2010, with just short of £1m in prize money. Two articles appeared in The Guardian about training on the downs. Last year, there were an average 171 horses per month using the training grounds (200 in May), at the highest level for a decade. A new trainer, Olivia Maylam, has moved into Chalk Pit Stables in Headley Road. At the December meeting, the TGMB considered use of the hatched area (no change of course), and considered that improving facilities for hack riders on the downs, by restoring the hack sand track, should be addressed as soon as possible. The vice-chairman, as secretary to the TGMB, was in direct discussion with the hack riders about use of the hatched area (see here).

Byelaws and cycling: the recommendation to submit the byelaws for approval was agreed without any discussion, as was the recommendation not to consider any other proposals for changes to byelaws.

Habitat management plan for the golf course: the management recommendations were agreed without substantive comment (i.e. someone drew attention to the length of the plan), as was the need for a further meeting with the golf course to identify responsibilities for delivering the actions.

Extending the fencing period for the Derby: the clerk said she had received representations from the consultative committee and the Epsom Protection Society about the powers to grant an extension, but had set out her view in the report that the extension could be permitted. She acknowledged that the Act conveyed no specific powers to vary the fencing periods, she had concluded that it nevertheless had the power to do so. A member asked why the fencing needed to go up so early, and was told there was a huge amount to do, so that the fencing provided a secure area for additional works coming on site, and because it took time to put up the fencing. Health and safety requirements were now more onerous and the work could not be done in the time stipulated in the Act. An assurance was given that, during the build up period, the fencing would not exclude the public (Ed: though it was not clear how this was reconciled with the earlier stated need to provide a secure area. Meanwhile, it seems that the clerk’s view is that the framework of the Act can be dispensed with when it doesn’t suit any party, a handy principle which we will need to bear in mind).

Barbecues on the downs: the racecourse said it was not clear whether the byelaws, which prohibit the lighting of fires, applied to barbecues, which were part of the Derby event and Derby ‘culture’. It was suggested that the conservators could decide to allow barbecues during racing events (but not on music evenings), but the clerk said that the Act only enabled the conservators to make byelaws, and byelaw 2(i)(g) simply prohibited lighting of fires, although that left open the question of enforcement. A member suggested that allowing barbecues at certain times would lead to abuse at other times. The racecourse said that barbecues on music evenings would be quickly clamped down on. The chairman was reluctant to ‘consent’ to barbecues on specific days only, but thought that it might be sensible to continue to turn a blind eye during events. That approach was endorsed after a heated discussion. (Ed: quite how the conservators could consent or not consent to a breach of the byelaws remained unclear, particularly since any aggrieved party may prosecute).

Ebbisham Lane: the clerk reported on the possibility of a repair notice to be served on the highway authority, under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980 (as we had previously suggested), and described the procedure. Following which, the chairman immediately moved on the discussion to the next item.

Reseeding of Tattenham straight: Nick Owen had asked that native species should be used, preferably seeded from other areas of the downs (regrettably, Nick Owen will be leaving the Lower Mole Countryside Project in March). The request was agreed, taking Nick Owen’s advice into consideration.

Management of staff: overtime payments needed to be reduced. It was proposed to integrate the maintenance downskeeper into the Streetcare section of the council’s operation services. A report was circulated at the start of the meeting, and although the agenda item was described as ‘confidential’, the public was permitted to remain, even though the discussion related to a particular member of staff. That person was reported content with the new arrangements (thought it was apparent this wasn’t the whole story). Agreed.

Downskeeper’s hut: bizarrely, we were then asked to leave while the conservators discussed the future of the downskeeper’s hut, even though this item hadn’t been branded as confidential: an odd sense of what is and is not confidential. So the outcome is unknown for now.

Date of next meeting: 11 April 2011.