Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 30th May 2018

Next week public exhibitions are taking place covering the next stage of town centre redevelopment. It’s an exciting time and it comes at the end of a long road for Crawley. When our town centre was built it was cutting edge, unfortunately while the world has moved on, many of those units remain in the same condition as when they were first built, no longer as attractive to retailers as they once were and yet too expensive to knock down.

Delivering regeneration has been tough. The council owns very little property in the town centre, and consequently depends upon the cooperation private owners, and several economic downturns came right at the point schemes were set to launch.

Nonetheless, the site-by-site approach we first advocated for in opposition is delivering results where big schemes never began. Already we’ve seen the Upper High Street transformed by re-development of the site where Morrisons now stands, the Northern Boulevard has gone from empty office blocks to new housing and the once derelict Southern Counties site is now providing housing for local people, 40% of which affordable.

Meanwhile public areas in the town centre are gradually being enhanced, particularly with the Queens Square and Queensway schemes. The council is similarly bringing forward its own sites. Hundreds of new homes, again 40% affordable, will soon be built on the derelict Telford Place site. The redevelopment of the Town Hall site will provide the same percentage of affordable housing, a more efficient Town Hall, and high grade office space and low carbon energy generation for the town centre, providing new income sources for council services.

The exhibitions next week will show how Station Way and College Road will be transformed, with an impressive new station, new housing replacing the hideous Overline House and much enhanced public areas and pedestrian connectivity throughout these portions of the town centre.

Ultimately retail is changing and town centres in the future will no longer simply be about shopping, but even as these things change the council is working to ensure Crawley’s town centre remains an attractive heart at the centre of our community.

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