Chairman: today’s was the first meeting of the new local government year, following the elections, which called for the board to elect a chairman and vice-chairman. As usual, Jean Smith was the only nominee for chairman, and Andrew Chairman was appointed vice-chairman.
TGMB/dog control: last met on 15 May and discussed dog control. Trainers reported daily mishaps, and the TGMB thought that the current byelaw was insufficient and required amendment to keep dogs on leads. It was described as absurd that dogs were allowed to run loose while horses were in training. The chairman said that a new byelaw (requiring dogs to be on leads before noon) would be costly and lengthy, and it was necessary to be sure that the new byelaw would be effective. Enforcement would be difficult. Trainers were asked to log all incidents to raise understanding of the problem, with a report to the next meeting. The chairman asked if the TGMB would share the costs of seeking a new byelaw or dog control order? Other members were supportive of tighter controls. The clerk said that there were insufficient resources to enforce. Publicity would be used to raise awareness, but breaches were often committed by people from elsewhere. The council lacked resources to follow up breaches. The chairman asked whether there was support for a ban on dogs before noon, but the question was not addressed by the board. The trainersâ€™ representative said that more effective control was a prerequisite to the continuing status of the downs as a leading training ground; there was also concern about dogs ‘kept’ on an extendable lead. The vice-chairman noted that the existing byelaw already required a dog to remain under proper control and avoid disturbing any animal, and that the question was one of enforcement rather than drafting; however, the clerk thought that a more clearly worded byelaw or a dog control order would be easier to prosecute (but said she was willing to prosecute it if resources were provided). Officers were asked to review options again, including the possibility of employing an enforcement officer. Officers thought that dog control needed to be reviewed in the context of the borough as a whole.
Code of conduct signs: officers reported that two new signs were being made and due to be supplied shortly. Likely candidates were bottom of Ebbisham Lane and Langley Vale, but the board wasn’t specifically asked to endorse these locations.
Hack sand track: in the light of no response from the levy board, a meeting had resolved that the vice-chairman should write again, but no reply had been received.
Downs House: Bidwells had reverted to previously interested bidders and discussions were taking place with two candidates.
Land at rear of Rosebery Road: it was confirmed that a neighbouring householder had cleared some scrub on the downs, and had offered to pay for replanting. There was a brief discussion as to whether the matter should be taken further [Ed: without any sense of irony that such action might be contemplated here, but was apparently untenable in relation to dog control]. It was agreed to accept the offer of replanting. [Ed: presumably the other householders who haven’t admitted anything won’t pay anything. Though quite why these householders are expected to tolerate the growth of ever denser scrub, where there used to be none, so depriving them of their views of the downs, is entirely beyond me.]
Tarred surface on Walton Road: planning permission had been granted for an extension, and works would begin in a few weeks.
Final accounts: John, the former borough treasurer familiar at previous years’ discussion of the accounts, had retired. There was approximately a £20k excess of expenditure over income, attributed to the replacement downskeepers’ hut. A member asked about the outturn expenditure on noticeboards compared with budget: this was explained as owing to the code of conduct signs, but with a counterbalancing receipt through s.106 funds. A question about equipment and facility hire was thought to be attributable to the replacement temporary cabin while the downskeepers’ hut was rebuilt. A question was asked about the Tattenham Corner Road public conveniences (which were costing £20k per annum). The recommendations for disposal of the accounts were accepted. Discussion moved on to pension contributions, where increased contributions were sought. These increases could be spread over a longer period if the council accepted responsibility for the board as the parent body: a decision on this would be taken in the next few weeks by the council’s strategy and resources committee.
Downskeepers’ hut: an opening event was to be planned (later agreed to be combined with the downs tour).
Derby: concern was noted that the downskeepers had had to clear up in place of the contractors. The head downskeeper reported this year as ‘very bad, and said there was still glass on the downs. Officers reported that the events manager was aware of the problem and wanted to avoid the problems in future years. The racecourse had provided a report — build-up went roughly to schedule, with mitigating measures to reduce impact on the trainers. Ladies’ Day saw growth in grandstand subscription. Saturday had started with poor mid-morning weather, which had affected numbers on the Hill. Ten arrests had been made in line with previous years. The racecourse recognised that the waste management and litter clearance was ‘seriously disappointing’ and these issues were under investigation. A member asked what financial restitution would take place — the racecourse said that it would look at this. The chairman said that the arrangements in the Jockey Club room on Derby Day to which she had been invited were ‘magnificent’. A member commented on the poor behaviour experienced in the Blue Riband restaurant during Ladies’ Day. [Ed: indeed, much of the discussion about the Derby focused on the experiences of various members in accepting the hospitality kindly provided by the racecourse. Presumably the members all consider such hospitality compatible with their responsibility for regulating the racecourse’s management of the downs? Or perhaps they make a corresponding payment to charity?]
Downs tour: a board members’ downs tour was scheduled for 4 August at 14:30.