In the early 2000's many Councils across the UK reviewed the arrangements they had for model aircraft enthusiasts to fly planes on their land. Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (E&EBC) was amongst those who undertook such a review and they called on the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) for advice as to how model aircraft flying could be better regulated rather than banning the activity completely.
The BMFA undertook a Risk Assessment evaluation and made a number of recommendations, the main one being that the Byelaws be changed to allow the formation of a Club, which would ensure that all flyers of whatever discipline fly according to a set of common sense rules and that all are insured.
Contrary to some opinion the land on which the modellers fly, which is inside the racecourse, is private, it being owned by Jockey Club Racecourses (previously Racecourse Holdings Trust and before that United Racecourse (Holdings) Ltd.) but administered by the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators. We fly on the Downs with their permission, there being no such thing as grandfather rights for the flying of model aircraft, and this permission can be withdrawn at any time without recourse to any changes to the Byelaws.
After many months of negotiation with the E&EBC and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the formation of a Club was ratified with the appropriate amendments to the Byelaws accepted. With effect from January 1st 2006 the Epsom Downs Model Aircraft Club (EDMAC) became active and all model aircraft flyers that wish to fly from the Downs are required by the Conservators to join the Club. This requirement embraces all disciplines of radio control and free flight. For safety reasons the Byelaws exclude rocket and turbine powered aircraft, control line and bungee launches.
How these changes affect you
The Club (EDMAC) has now been running for over 15 years. It is affiliated to the BMFA, and has a Committee, a Constitution, and Club Rules. There is a small annual membership fee of £10 to cover the administration costs of running the Club and the machinery to maintain the flying strip. Junior members (under 18 at the time of joining/renewing) are not charged the club membership fee.
It is a requirement of both E&EBC and the BMFA that all EDMAC members must also be members of the BMFA. This provides insurance which indemnifies the Club Committee, the Land Owners and the Administrators - as well as the club members themselves - against third party claims up to £25 million.
Club members are issued an EDMAC membership card which, with their BMFA membership card, must be shown to the Conservators when requested to verify that they are insured and are members of EDMAC and therefore entitled to fly on the Downs.
The Downs is an excellent site, and the Committee are very pleased that the negotiations that were undertaken have secured this valuable flying site for the foreseeable future for all model aircraft enthusiasts.