Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 31st December 2014

As we enter the New Year it’s worth taking a look at what will be coming up over the next twelve months. If 2014 was a year of new beginnings at the council—with a new administration taking control—2015 may well be a year of conclusions, with a number of looming events, decisions and projects coming to fruition.

One event will particularly dominate the political landscape over the next few months and set the tone for years to come, the General Election. The election officially began on 19th December, with campaign expenditure rules coming into force, although Polling Day itself won’t be until 7th May.

While I clearly support my own party in the contest, from a council perspective the election throws up different challenges. Of course, the biggest issue is uncertainty over future funding arrangements for public services and all that means for meeting residents’ needs.

There are also policy implications, we have held back in several areas due to national commitments potentially superseding local solutions. If these commitments are not those of the next Government then we will have to find ways to deliver for people locally.

Housing is back on the agenda this year, with Forge Wood starting to take shape and the council’s proposed Local Plan for the use of land in the town coming before the Government’s planning inspectors. Having drawn a line under Town Centre North, 2015 will see a £3m redevelopment of Queens Square and the ongoing work of regenerating the Town Centre taking shape. After a long search, a decision taken at the last council meeting means 2015 will also be the year Crawley gets a new cemetery.

One thing which cannot go unmentioned is that this year is also the year the Airports Commission is due to give their long-awaited recommendation on runway capacity in the South East. Obviously this is an area of great interest locally, with the impact of expansion at either Gatwick or Heathrow bearing major consequences for the future of Crawley and it is one will have to work hard to prepare for, whatever the outcome.

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