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Crawley town centre report helps identify key opportunities for development

Key opportunities for development and economic growth within the borough have been identified thanks to a new report.

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As part of the One Public Estate Partnership, Crawley Borough Council, with West Sussex County and Crawley College, commissioned the report to explore routes for development across six town centre sites which are currently under-utilised.

One Public Estate is a national programme that brings public sector organisations together to collectively look at the use of land and buildings with the aim of improving public services, and supporting economic growth.

Crawley is already a significant economic hub, due to its good transport connectivity, proximity to London, Gatwick Airport and the presence of Manor Royal, which is one of the South East’s largest mixed activity business districts.

However, the report identified the following sites as areas with significant potential:

  • Queens Square
  • Station Gateway
  • Telford Place
  • Crawley College
  • County Buildings
  • Town Hall and adjacent car park

Each development site has been examined for their most suitable use, including a small quantity of commercial and business spaces at Station Gateway and Queens Square (of which already has an established concentration of office based activity and retail offerings).

Plans for the redevelopment of the Town Hall, along with Telford Place and Station Gateway have already progressed significantly. Offering more than 90,000 square feet of business and commercial spaces alongside residential properties.

The report identified the County Buildings (adjacent to the Town Hall), as an exciting development site, with potential for commercial spaces designed to offer workspace for a range of different businesses alongside further residential properties.

Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development at Crawley Borough Council, Councillor Peter Smith, said:

“With three million square feet of office space currently in the pipeline to be developed and more identified, the town centre potential as a place for economic growth across a number of industries is significant and exciting.

“The report has been pivotal in identifying areas of development that can be brought forwards quickly such as Queens Square and Telford Place.”

Leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith, said:

“This is an example of how the Growth Deals signed with every district and borough council in West Sussex and our One Public Estate Programme (OPE) are having a positive impact in helping to achieve economic growth across West Sussex.

“Collaborative working through OPE helps to secure resources and investment to boost the local economy, helping both residents and businesses to prosper and benefit from planned improvements. It puts a real focus on economic growth and development countywide.”

Continuing this, Group Managing Director (Commercial) for the Chichester College Group, Julie Kapsalis, said:

“Crawley College is very pleased to be part of this work. We are absolutely committed to developing the offer at our campus in Crawley to ensure that we can train people in the skills required by the local economy.

“We want to attract more students and learners to access our training and facilities. We welcome the joined up approach between partners and a focus on collaboration to ensure the most effective outcomes for Crawley, its businesses and residents.”

Under the council’s Town Centre Regeneration Programme, development of these opportunity sites alongside improvements to the town’s public realm and transport infrastructure has been detailed on www.regeneratingcrawley.org.uk.

Business

Did Crawley Council Leader really tell worried business owners ‘we’ll let the court decide’ over rent hikes?

It has become one of the hot topics of the year, the 30% rent increase for businesses on Tilgate Parade. But has an open letter from a councillor revealed more than just a heated debate.

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Take a walk through any part of Crawley where there are shops. How many of them are the same ones that were there just a few years ago?

In-fact if you walk through the town centre then you are almost going on a walk of memory as you pass empty units or one of the too-many-to-count coffee shops.

Parades so far have faired a little better with most retaining their stores but for how much longer?

Rules set out that rents for businesses must be set at a certain percentage of the value of the property, we will gloss over the fact that councils do have options in which they can reduce this as this has been spoken about at length before.

So a 30% rent hike, whilst shocking, is not surprising as prices increase over the years.

Tilgate Parade where rents are to increase by 30%.

But now an open letter by Tilgate Councillor Francis Guidera has potentially revealed just how much tension there really is between the business owners and the council.

In the letter (which you can read here) Mr Guidera talks about a discussion held after a recent Full Council meeting where eight Tilgate Parade business owners were ‘confronted’ by the Council Leader.

According to Mr Guidera’s letter, Council Leader Peter Lamb ‘demanded’ to know why the council should ‘subsidise’ profit making businesses.

Now heated words between disgruntled residents, business owners and opposing councillors are nothing new but according to Mr Guidera the parting words from the Council Leader appear to show that tensions are at breaking point.

“We’ll let the court decide” – these are the final words, according to Mr Guidera, that Peter Lamb used to the Crawley business owners as the conversation/debate/argument (use what you will because it is not clear what it was) came to a conclusion.

The whole country is on a political see-saw with every party taking any opportunity it can to score points from the other so letters like this can be seen to be just that, another point scoring opportunity – BUT – ‘if’ what Mr Guidera saying is right then it does beg the question of whether the council is really understanding the true concerns of the very people it represents.

CN24 approached Mr Lamb for comment but at time of publishing had not received a response.

There are rules, regulations, legislation to follow but there are also opportunities open to councils to make a difference and to help those it works hard to convince it wants to help. So why such defiance?

The see-saw has dropped on one side now, let’s see what comes out to make it tip the other way?

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