Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 15th November 2017

Artists impression of a refurbished Queensway.

Aside from our historic High Street, when they began building the New Town seventy years ago there wasn’t much to the Town Centre and even then it took a decade before Queens Square was completed.

When finished, we had a modern Town Centre, which was perfectly adapted to the shopping needs of the time. Unfortunately, times change and with so much of the Town Centre having been built at the same time it also aged at the same rate, a problem common to New Towns, so that while County Mall brought new retail opportunities to Crawley when it opened in the 1990s it was clear the Town Centre as a whole needed a rethink.

For well over a decade, the council tried to bring forward Town Centre North, which would have involved generating new retail space along The Boulevard, only for it to become clear by 2014 that the plan wasn’t viable, meanwhile public spaces had decayed and other redevelopment opportunities had gone ignored. 

At this point Labour and Conservative concillors parted ways, with Conservatives continuing to talk about Town Centre North and Labour saying they should be honest with the public that the scheme had failed and develop a new approach to Town Centre regeneration. So when Labour regained control of the council, we got to work.

Since that point, Queens Square has been redesigned, with new retailers citing those improvements as their reason for moving into the area, with redevelopment now set to stretch down Queensway and The Pavement. Underused buildings along The Boulevard have been converted for housing and the Town Hall site is set to be regenerated into a new Civic Centre complete with more affordable housing and high-end office space. Station Way is also set for a radical redesign, including a new station and considerable improvements to the public realm.

With more people living and working in the Town Centre and our regular programme of events, including the new Christmas ice rink, we’re providing retailers greater footfall, helping to fight off the threat of the internet and in the process delivering town centre regeneration for Crawley.

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