NEW efforts are being made to safeguard an important Richmond landmark.

Richmond Burgage Pastures Committee, which owns the town's former racecourse, is pushing to be able to make use of the buildings on the course after they were incorrectly tied into legislation protecting the land.

For decades, the buildings including what remains of the crumbling grandstand, judges' box and stewards' stand, have remained untouched because they were included in a land registry of common land.

Now, the committee intends to rectify the mistake.

“In 1968 central government was encouraging local authorities to find land which could be added to the national registry of common land and village greens,” said chair of Richmond Burgage Pastures Committee, Robin Dundas, Earl of Ronaldshay.

“In their haste to drive this agenda forward, errors in applications were made, but there is now a process in place whereby we can ask to have the buildings removed from the register. If we are successful, this would help us immensely as we would be able to take a fresh look at how we can better maintain and improve the whole racecourse – both land and buildings – in the future.

The racecourse is well-used by dog walkers, and in the past has staged kite festivals.

It is hoped that the area around the buildings could be used for public use, by a charitable trust or not-for-profit organisation.

North Yorkshire County Council, who manage the register of common land for the area, have a statutory obligation to notify the public that an application has been received to modify the commons register.

This allows anyone the opportunity to comment if they believe that the requested change is valid or otherwise.

A consultation period, by North Yorkshire County Council, into the validity of the request to remove the buildings from the register will last from June 2 until July 22.

The council will then make their decision on the Burgage Pastures Committee request to de-register only the buildings on the course.

The committee believes the administrative anomaly has hampered previous efforts to progress any plans to secure the future of the grandstand in particular, which is a Grade II listed property and categorised as in ‘poor’ condition on the Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.

“It is a source of some frustration that a decades old bureaucratic oversight has led to us having our hands tied for many years,” said Lord Ronaldshay.

“We are responsible for the whole space, and to see the gradual decline in the condition of such an important part of Richmond’s social history and a nationally important piece of horse racing architecture is heart-breaking.”

Discussions with the Common Law Team based within the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol have suggested that generally, buildings included in one of the earlier common land registrations have most probably been done so in error.

Richmond’s grandstand is now the oldest surviving public stone racecourse grandstand in the world.

Designed by the leading northern 18th century architect John Carr, work on the two-storey grandstand started in 1775.

It was funded by five guinea subscriptions, with each subscriber given a circular metal token, allowing them access to the stand forever.

In 1775, King George III had decided that the annual King’s Plate event would no longer be run at Hambleton near Thirsk, but instead alternate between York and Richmond.

It was therefore vital that the prestigious new grandstand was completed in time for the first running at Richmond in 1777.

Races could be watched from a prime elevated position, giving unprecedented coverage of much of the race, rather than just the final few furlongs as at other courses, either through the large arched windows, the balcony which encircled the entire first floor, or the ballustraded rooftop.

Richmond, like almost all other courses except Newmarket and York, only had a single annual race week. The town was at the very centre of British horseracing, and also key to the development of the thoroughbred racehorse. The best racing stables, the best breeders, the best racecourse, and the best social event of the year. All in Richmond.

This reputation lasted well into the 1800s with the course attracting the best horses in the north, and crowds of more than 8000 people, around double the population of the town at that time. But by about 1870 attendances began to decline, and the meeting was abandoned completely in 1892.

You can access the North Yorkshire County Council’s official notification of the burgage’s application here.

A decision is expected later this year.