Last Thursday marked 73 years since Crawley New Town was founded. In 1947, the post-war Labour Government which created our NHS decided Crawley would form part of their plan to end the UK’s housing crisis by becoming a New Town.
It was an ambitious project, they wouldn’t just seek to create housing but to do it in a way which would avoid the slums cities had been allowed to become, where employment would be plentiful, and leisure space built into every neighbourhood. For all those who choose to talk our town down, the reality is that national league tables of cities and large towns show that they succeeded by almost every measure, so much so that every major party for at least the last decade has paid lip service to New Towns in their housing policies.
At the time the New Town was built, what was to become Crawley was a collection of farms, private estates and three villages: Crawley, Ifield, and Three Bridges. To enable construction, Crawley Development Corporation bought up large amounts of land in and around the villages and got to work. 73 years on Homes England exists as the great-grandchild of Crawley Development Corporation and the land they bought is now our home. That is, except for a piece which sits West of Ifield, the second largest piece of land Homes England owns.
Last year, Homes England, whose Chairman at the time was Conservative politician Sir Edward Lister–now Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser, announced a plan to build 10,000 houses on this land, that’s almost a quarter of the size of our current town. Clearly, that size of development will impact upon the town as a whole. The question is, if they get permission from Horsham District Council, will Homes England make the cost worthwhile?
Will Homes England make the housing affordable, so local young people have the chance of a home? Will they build decent facilities, so residents don’t see current services suffer? Will they provide a relief road, so our roads aren’t locked up permanently? They have an amazing legacy to live up to, will they do it?