Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Epsom Trainers' Association (PPG 27)

  Horses have been in training in Epsom and the surrounding area for over 200 years. The horseracing and training of racehorses on Epsom and Walton Downs, the home of the most famous horserace in the world, the Epsom Derby, advanced much of the development of the town. The horseracing industry is an important element of the historical character of the Epsom area.

  Epsom Downs is one of four recognised major training centres in the country, the others being Newmarket, Lambourn and Middleham.

  Prior to 1970 numerous yards that were near or in the town itself were developed due to urbanisation and in the last 30 years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of horses in training and available stables to train from in the area. This is mainly due to the redevelopment of over one third of the former stables for housing. The number of trainers and horses in the area has declined from 19 licensed trainers with 520 horses in 1970 to 12 trainers with only 220 horses in 2000. This is against the national trend, which has seen the number of licensed trainers remain relatively constant (590 in 1972 and 563 in 1999) but the number of horses in training increasing significantly from 11,491 horses in 1975 to 14,491 in 1999 Source; (British Horseracing Board).

  Although since 1970 two new yards have been built (on green belt land) which have helped to keep the number of trainers in double figures, it is not nearly sufficient to see the numbers returned to the 1970 figures and certainly not to expand the numbers, as has happened in the other three UK horseracing centres, Newmarket, Lambourn and Middleham. For example in 1970 Newmarket had 35 yards—in 2000 they had 70. The decline in the number of horses in training has now reached a point where the viability of the gallops and of Epsom as a training centre is in question.

  Residential land values around Epsom are very high. A key factor in the decline in numbers in training at Epsom when compared with the increased prosperity of other centres is the difference in land use and designation around the areas. Epsom, because of its proximity to London, is dominated by green belt land, making it difficult for the racing industry to develop.

  Epsom has an urgent need to develop a small number of sites to provide the space for the industry to regain critical mass. These should be strictly limited in number so as to provide protection for the green belt, but because of the nature of the industry they are likely to have to be built in green belt areas.

  The Association believes that PPG 17 should permit limited development of support facilities for major sporting centres, such as Epsom Racecourse and the training grounds on Epsom Downs in green belt land—as long as the sports concerned are demonstrably linked to green belt and countryside. Any such development would have to be part of an agreed strategy for that centre, drawn up in partnership with planning authorities, and would have to be restricted by covenant or other legal means to the original designated use. The Committee might like to consider whether a specific use-class should be created for such developments. We hope that the Committee will include recommendations to this effect in its report.

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