Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 6th October 2021

‘Planning’ is in the news again this week, with debate over what the Government will do now they appeared to have dropped their ‘Developers Charter’ proposals which would have seen power snatched from communities and handed over to developers.

While not the most interesting topic on paper, in practice planning is one of the most powerful parts of policy making, with wide-ranging implications for the availability of jobs, the cost of housing and how effectively public services can operate.

For all the attempts to do Crawley down, the New Towns are in many ways a testament to the effectiveness of well-planned communities. Today, planning again has the potential to transform the life of the town and its residents in a range of ways, both good and bad, with two proposals of national significance.

The first is the huge development Homes England, the Government’s housing agency, plan to build West of Ifield, on the largest parcel of land they hold. The second is Gatwick Airport and whether they will be allowed to use both their runways at the same time in the future. Yet, despite their impact on Crawley, neither proposal will be decided by local residents or their elected representatives, with West of Ifield technically located within the boundaries of Horsham District Council and runways being a matter for the Government’s Planning Inspector to determine.

At the same time Crawley’s finds itself unable to determine even basic planning applications due to a recent diktat from Natural England, another Government agency, that no applications will be permissible unless they demonstrate water neutrality due to new research into a type of snail.

So, Crawley is now unable to take planning decisions to create jobs and provide affordable housing thanks to a Government agency, we will have no say on a major extension to the town led by another Government agency and a Government inspector will decide the future of our main employer, while the Government tries to decide what to do the planning system. All major decisions and all in the hands of a Government apparently unable to even keep petrol flowing.

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