Crawley bidding to be the first New Town to become a city

Crawley will apply for city status – on the 75th anniversary of the new town – and the council wants to hear what you love and makes you proud about the town.

Crawley Borough Councillors have agreed to enter the Civic Honours competition, part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, at a meeting last night (Wednesday 20 October).

A consultation asking for the views of residents, businesses and stakeholders starts today (Thursday 21 October) and will run until Thursday 18 November. Visit crawley.gov.uk/citybid to have your say.

Crawley could become the first new town ever to be granted city status – in the same year that it celebrates its diamond anniversary.

The Civic Honours competition, which is free to enter, aims to provide towns with the chance to:
• Showcase civic pride, interesting heritage and a record of innovation
• Put the town on the map
• Bring greater prosperity of opportunity.

Crawley’s bid will be based around the central message of ‘75 years ago, you made Crawley a New Town. In that time, we have grown to become a regional powerhouse. Imagine what we can achieve if you made us a New City’.

Crawley is a success story that encapsulates all that is good about post-war Britain. The Platinum Jubilee marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Crawley as a New Town, which has the motto ‘I grow and I rejoice’ – and how it has grown!

This ancient Sussex market town, with a population of 9,000 in 1947, is transformed and now home to more than 114,000 residents, a £6bn economy and Gatwick Airport, the world’s busiest single runway airport.

Benefits of entering the competition, even if a bid is unsuccessful, include the opportunity to:
• Celebrate and promote the town’s strengths, including our economic power, Gatwick Airport being in the borough, our sense of community and exciting, long-term regeneration programme
• Rebuild optimism and pride after suffering the worst economic impacts of the pandemic
• Have a wider discussion about what Crawley can become.

The report adds: “A bid for city status would certainly raise Crawley’s profile, enhancing its reputation and ensuring it is a place that is recognised, helping to put Crawley on the map.

“Given the significant economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our town which is well documented and evidenced; securing City Status will bring with it prestige, standing and an opportunity to lever investment to aid our recovery.

“Studies suggest that a successful bid for city status could bring further investment and employment opportunities.”

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “From its small beginnings, Crawley has grown to become the largest urban area in the county and one of the region’s most significant centres of economic activity, leisure, and culture. City status would recognise the remarkable journey our home has been on over the last seven and a half decades and provide new opportunities for us to keep moving Crawley forward.”

The closing dates for bids to be submitted is 8 December. The government will announce the winners of the competition in early 2022.

For more details visit gov.uk/government/publications/platinum-jubilee-civic-honours-competition

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 20th October 2021

In our society we internalise from our school days the belief that democracy is important. Yet, how often do we really ask ‘why’ democracy is important and not just a chance outcome of our history and culture.

In a land without any other rules, the rules of nature dictate how we live our lives. The physically strong prey upon the weak and chaos prevents the existence of any real civilisation. Instead, of a life which is nasty, brutish, and short, through our participation within society we agree to be collectively bound by rules. Trading some personal freedom for protection from the harm caused by the freedoms of others.

For most of human history an individual or a small elite would set the rules for their entire society. Having grown up in a democracy this seems inherently wrong to us, but for those alive at the time most believed for one reason or another these individuals were better qualified to rule.

Yet, even the most wise and selfless dictatorship will inevitably fail. There is no way for an individual to understand every issue affecting society, there are differences of opinion to which there is no ‘right’ answer, and even if they get every decision right eventually a successor won’t. Eventually, every dictatorship or oligarchy ends up using force to sustain themselves.

By giving everyone a vote, every issue affecting every person’s life becomes relevant and we have the ability to change Governments and their policies without resorting to force. Even where we disagree with a decision, the system has still had to consider our view as part of the process, we just simply weren’t in the majority.

The death of Sir David Amess is a tragedy not only for his family and those who knew him, but for all of us. It represents not just an attack on a man, but the very rules which bind us together, give us freedom and keep us safe from harm. The health of a democracy isn’t in how we treat those we agree with, but in how we treat those whose views we oppose.

Housing development named after fallen Crawley Marine

A Crawley Borough Council housing development has been named after Royal Marine Scott Summers from Crawley, who died in action in Afghanistan in 2007 aged just 23.

The affordable rent housing development, which consists of six maisonettes and three flats, has been named Scott Summers Court. Located on Woolborough Road and Cobbles Crescent on the site of a former doctor’s surgery, it is near to another development named after a Crawley soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan, Private John Brackpool.

A service of dedication where a memorial plaque was unveiled on the building took place on Thursday 14 October attended by representatives from Scott’s family, the Royal Marines and Crawley Borough Council. This was followed by a short informal gathering for attendees which took place at the Army Reserve Centre.

Born in September 1983, Marine Summers joined the Royal Marines in January 2005. He deployed with J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines to Afghanistan in October 2006. Royal Marine Scott Summers tragically died after sustaining serious injuries in a road traffic accident, aged just 23, while on tour in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Scott’s mother Carol said: “It is such a privilege to have this block of flats named after my son Scott and the family would like to thank Crawley Council for honouring him in this way. I often drive past them and it reminds me of all the happy memories that we have. And even though it has been some years since we lost Scott, we still miss him so much. We are also grateful that 42 Commando of the Royal Marines wanted to officiate the service making us feel that we are still part of the Marine family.”

Lieutenant General R A Magowan CB CBE, Commandant General Royal Marines, said: “The Royal Marines are proud and deeply honoured that Crawley Borough Council has recognised Marine Scott Summers, an outstanding young man and a superb Commando, who died in service to the Nation. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “Scott Summers was one of this town’s bravest residents.

“There have been more Mayors of Crawley than residents who have roads and buildings named after them. This is a fitting tribute to Scott’s courage and sacrifice.”

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 13th October 2021

Like many people, I have a quiet moan to myself when I notice the first Christmas decorations going up well before December. It’s not that I dislike Christmas, far from it, but it does feel as though the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ loses something when it occupies an increasingly large part of the year.

So, I had some sympathy for those commenting on Facebook about the Town Centre decorations going up. Yet, it’s not hard to understand why. Retail has been struggling for many years, made far worse by the pandemic, as people increasingly buy things online. If the local businesses who pay for the Crawley Town Centre BID believe buying new decorations and getting them up in mid-October will help them to survive then that is clearly in the best interests of the town as a whole.

What is not in the best interests of our town is the Government’s decision to take £20 per week away from Crawley poorest residents. Our latest figures are from before the Government’s decision to end the furlough scheme, even for sectors like aviation which continue to struggle under the burden Government restrictions, and consequently for Crawley we still won’t know just how bad this is likely to be for the town as a whole.

However, using the existing figures what we do know is at least 4,270 of our poorest residents will be £220 poorer by Christmas and for all his talk, the Chancellor’s alleged package of support is just a fraction of what he’s cutting from Universal Credit. What a lovely present from the Government to families already struggling to keep their heads above water due to the economic impact of the Government’s restrictions and who, much like everyone else, are now dealing with the rising costs of basic essentials, shortages in the shops, and a National Insurance hike which will again target low earners.

For Crawley as a whole this amounts to an extra £4.4m being taken out of our economy, another hit for struggling local businesses, but for those families it’s a body blow at Christmas time.

Crawley New town to Crawley new city?

Crawley Borough Council is exploring the possibility of applying for city status on the 75th anniversary of becoming a new town.

Councillors will discuss whether to enter the Civic Honours competition, which is part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, at a meeting on Wednesday 20 October.

The Civic Honours competition, which is free to enter, will bestow city status on towns in the UK. It aims to provide towns with the chance to:

  • Showcase civic pride, interesting heritage and a record of innovation
  • Put the town on the map
  • Bring greater prosperity of opportunity.

A Crawley bid would be based around the central message of ‘75 years ago, you made Crawley a New Town. In that time, we have grown to become a regional powerhouse. Imagine what we can achieve if you made us a New City’.

The report to councillors highlights the benefits of entering the competition, even if a bid is unsuccessful. It provides an opportunity to:

  • Celebrate and promote the town’s strengths, including our economic power, Gatwick Airport being in the borough, our sense of community and exciting, long-term regeneration programme
  • Rebuild optimism and pride after suffering the worst economic impacts of the pandemic
  • Have a wider discussion about what Crawley can become.

The report adds: “A bid for city status would certainly raise Crawley’s profile, enhancing its reputation and ensuring it is a place that is recognised, helping to put Crawley on the map.

“Given the significant economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our town which is well documented and evidenced; securing City Status will bring with it prestige, standing and an opportunity to lever investment to aid our recovery.

 “Studies suggest that a successful bid for city status could bring further investment and employment opportunities.”

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “If councillors agree to enter the competition, Crawley could become the first New Town ever to be granted city status – in the same year that we celebrate our diamond anniversary.

“Bidding is free and a simple process so there is everything to gain and nothing to lose; if we do bid it gives us the chance to shout loudly about our strengths and achievements on a national scale while rebuilding optimism and pride locally.”

If it is decided to enter, a consultation asking for the views of residents, businesses and stakeholders will begin on Thursday 21 October and run for four weeks.

The closing dates for bids to be submitted is 8 December. The government will announce the winners of the competition in early 2022.

For more details visit gov.uk/government/publications/platinum-jubilee-civic-honours-competition

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.

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 29th September 2021

It seems with every passing week now the UK is faced with a new crisis. Last week it was the extraordinary hike in energy costs, this week it’s accessing fuel, next week who knows?

Whatever the challenges brought of the pandemic, the problems now facing Britain cannot be found to anywhere near the same extent in other major economies. Is coincidence? Or some unique problem with Britain? Or does the repeated pattern of failure stem from a Government unwilling or incapable of planning beyond the end of the week, never mind facing up to the major challenges of the coming decades?

For Crawley, for the first time in our history we are facing mass-unemployment, the direct consequence of decisions taken by our Government. Yet, despite being harder hit than any other economy in the country we have not received any extra support to undo the damage they have done.

We have a housing crisis and a system which makes it increasingly hard to ensure developers build housing people can afford and provide the infrastructure necessary to avoid stretching existing services beyond breaking point.

At a time when local councils need to be empowered to provide sustainable transport options, retrofit housing for carbon neutrality, and deliver large quantities of local green energy generation, councils are instead left struggling to maintain even basic services on a fraction on the budget they had just over a decade ago.

These are the real challenges our town is facing and which cannot be resolved without Government support and every one of them has been made harder to overcome by the Conservatives’ decisions over the last decade. Yet, instead of helping fix the mess, we are having new and entirely unnecessary problems created for us, one after the other, without end.

This Government’s survival relies upon bluster and fiction, upon promoting the belief that there is no alternative and that every country is going through the same thing. The reality is the UK has always had alternatives, other parties consistently highlighted them and we still have time to put our country back on the right course.

Labour analysis shows thousands of aviation workers facing furlough cliff edge in three days’ time – 18 months after Chancellor promised sector support deal

Thousands of workers across the country are facing a cliff-edge when furlough ends in three days’ time – despite the fact the government promised a sector support deal more than 18 months ago.

Figures show 77,000 workers in the South East region are employed in the aviation sector (directly and supply chain), large numbers of whom have been furloughed as the sector struggles with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 81,000 workers across the country face the risk of losing their jobs after September 30 – including a possible 13,000 in the South East region. The vast majority of these jobs will be associated with Gatwick Airport in Crawley, which has been the hardest hit airport in Europe.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised a financial support package for aviation on March 17, 2020 – but 18 months later, it has failed to materialise.

Crawley is already among the top 10 places with the highest share of people claiming unemployment related benefits.

And according to Airlines UK, which represents UK registered airlines, more than 30,000 job losses have been announced by just their members across the UK since the start of the pandemic. Beforehand, more than a quarter of all constituencies had more than 1,000 people employed in aviation – the third largest aviation network in the world.

Broader estimates by Unite the union put redundancies in the UK aviation and aerospace sector at 61,973 up to March 2021, excluding those formerly employed in retail at airports and induced employment across the economy.

Pre-pandemic, in 2019, in Boris Johnson’s own constituency there were 3,356 people working in aviation – 8.2% of all the people employed in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. And in Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ constituency of Welwyn Hatfield – not in close proximity to an airport or aerospace industry – 930 people still relied on the sector for employment.

Peter Lamb, Leader of Borough Council, said:

“For the first time in the town’s history, Crawley is facing mass-unemployment, the direct result of the Conservatives’ failure to protect jobs in aviation and the communities dependant upon them. The Government has been repeatedly warned for many months of the consequences of their decisions, but for all their reassurances, thousands of hard-working families in my community are now facing years of hardship.”

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said:

“It should be a source of shame for ministers that they have allowed thousands of jobs to be lost in the aviation sector across the country when they promised support – particularly when so many are now staring down the barrel of Boris Johnson’s tax hikes and cuts to Universal Credit.

“Empty words, long delays and broken promises are the default setting for this Government – with working people paying the price over and over again.

“Labour has consistently called for a sectoral deal that supports the whole aviation industry including securing jobs and protecting the supply chain, while continuing to press for higher environmental standards.”

Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Rising energy costs, a National Insurance tax hike, a £20 per week cut for struggling families, and shortages on supermarket shelves are just the latest in the long series of problems inflicted upon the country through decisions of a Government prioritising a ‘culture war’ over the real need and issues facing households in Britain.

None of these problems were inevitable and any one of them issues under any previous Government would have provoked a national outcry. Yet, it appears that in Britain today no matter how much wrong Mr Johnson does, Mr Johnson can do no wrong in the eyes of Conservative voters.

Where does that leave Crawley? Since the last General Election we have gone from the densest centre of employment in the country, to suffering the worst job losses and with councils’ incomes now so heavily connected to the economic performance of their area, local public services are being starved of funding exactly when our communities need them most.

With so many households already close to breaking point, it is any wonder that we are seeing a huge increase in crime and antisocial behaviour tearing at the heart of our community and putting residents at risk?

Yet, for all the talk of ‘building back better’ and ‘levelling up’, Crawley as the country’s hardest hit economy is to receive no Government support for rebuilding and even existing funding is threatened by the Comprehensive Spending Review. We are a town held in contempt by our own Government.

This isn’t rocket science. Funding for regeneration should be focused on those communities which need it most, rather than seats the Conservatives hope to win at the next General Election. Families in poverty should no longer be the target of Government cuts, nor should the tax burden rest upon those with lower incomes, instead we should return to a tax system based upon what people earn and use the money generated to rebuild our fractured public services.

The question is, after eleven years of this nonsense does anyone really believe that our Conservative Government is going to have a change of heart now?