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With a possible 10,000+ new homes coming to Crawley how can pollution levels be controlled?



Let me begin by saying I am no eco-warrior. I have no passion to paint up a placard and march across the country waving it around claiming we are all doomed. I am more than happy to instead drive, yes drive to the local drive-thru and pick up a meal to then watch the news of others doing the protesting.

But like millions of others like me I am also aware there is an issue and I almost need to be ordered into doing something about it.

We have all heard the arguments surrounding the use of the emergency runway at Gatwick including those about whether there would be an increase in pollution levels.

No doubt those against the increase in air traffic at Gatwick will use this story as another PR exercise to try to demand that it never happens, but this is a pollution story that many will not be aware of.

Crawley is, compared to other local authorities across the county, one of the smallest. In-fact it only covers 45 Sq Km but due to its commercial district and proximity to the airport has one of the largest employment densities in the country.

This obviously means that there are a lot of commuters coming in and out of the town every single day, including weekends and so it can be considered little surprise that the towns Nitrogen dioxide levels are above average.

Crawley Council instigated an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) to monitor the levels. The area, indicated in blue below shows the small area, particularly along roads, that it covers.

This was setup in 2015 however and the council have ever since been working on ways to lower the pollution levels.

BUT when you look at the latest report published by Crawley Council (click here for the report) in 2019 and in particular at the section on ‘Actions to Improve Air Quality’, there seems to be a noticable lack in awareness of where the problems lie by the suggested remedies.

An AQMA is put in place to cover a particular area for a reason. It is designated that the placement of the AQMA is that this is the area that needs most addressing. With this in mind note that the area in question is the main arterial road entry into the town. It covers the A2011 dual carriageway which leads down from the M23 and then splinters off into four main roads into and around the town.

Now look at the Councils proposals:

A local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, a local transport strategy setting out better connectivity, walking, cycling and electric vehicle infrastructure, grant funding to schools and businesses on education and more support and advice on emissions including the implementation of a free messaging service to alert local people with breathing problems of any issues.

Sounds all very good, doesn’t it? But how does any of that address the area concerned. Let me explain. Commuter A lives in Brighton. He drives up the A23 then M23 to Junction 10 where he then takes the dual carriageway into Crawley and then into Manor Royal for his work. He is not going to walk nor take his life into his hands cycling along the dual carriageway. His business may hand him a leaflet about car emissions but he has no interest in receiving an eAlert about polution so sets about his working day before he drives home to his family whose children do not go to school in Crawley and therefore get no education on the pollution problems in the town.

The point is that on paper the actions proposed sound good but in practical terms will not really address the issue.

A council spokesperson said:

“Crawley Borough Council acknowledges that the Highways Team at West Sussex County Council can do little to instantly reduce traffic on the affected busy roads in our town. As a consequence, and while such measures are formulated, we have to look at education, behavioural change and planning controls to reduce emissions and encourage modal shift from personal car use to more sustainable forms of transport.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight – it will take time. We are using a multi-tool approach using a range of actions to bring about behavioural change.

The Crawley Growth Programme is investing in improving sustainable transport infrastructure including better connectivity at key transport interchanges like Three Bridges which will enable someone travelling from Brighton to take the train and connect to bus or walk or cycle to Manor Royal. In addition, connectivity enhancements at the major railway station of Crawley, Three Bridges and Gatwick will greatly facilitate commuter access to Manor Royal and the town centre via sustainable transport connections.”

Yes there have been some small indications that people are starting to make a difference. A few primary schools working in conjunction with Sustrans have managed to stop a few parents from driving their little ones in to school. But I did question the suggestion that it was making such a huge diffence that it warranted the embelished headline given in their recent press release.

And this is where it leads to the proposal of 10,000 new homes. Be under no illusion, the majority of them will be owned by someone with a car. This means more pollution pushed out and into the lungs of those who are already suffering here.

But we do need homes. There is huge demand and they must be built. The question is how can Crawley cope with such a huge new influx if it can’t cope with the levels it already has?

Now there has been a suggestion that the AQMA be extended across more of the town but how will this really help? All it is likely to do is to give more evidence to what we already know about the Nitrogen dioxide levels.

With everyone turning to electric vehicles in ten or so years time then a lot of this will be addressed but what about the present time?

One suggestion that has been banded around is the idea of spreading out new houses into areas that are no so built up as Crawley has become. It is certainly an idea worth consideration, particularly if areas proposed don’t have an AQMA in situ already. Just take a look at the huge open spaces around Horsham and further afield.

It was always going to be the case that people in Ifield would object to the plans for a mini town to be built next to them but when you look at the data being produced, questioned and reported on by the local authority itself then you do start to wonder what the thinking is other than a monetary one and once that idea starts to take over then you do question the ethics.

The public will get their chance to question the council about this proposed development but it’s not going to be what is asked, nor what the reponses are and to be honest not even what the final decision is that will be what to watch. It will be how whatever is decided is justfied and pollution will be a major factor in that.

But for now, protests continue and petitions will form as most of us will sit back and watch from afar, that is until we get a text alert when it gets a bit poisonous outside.


Come visit our parks, just not Tilgate says Crawley Council as questions continue over car parks closure



Crawley Borough Council is asking residents who want to go to the towns parks to try other ones besides Tilgate Park over worries that social distancing is not able to be maintained due to its popularity.

In a statement released the council says that by encouraging people to visit other parks then it will ‘reduce the burden on Tilgate Park and the residential streets nearby, while the car parks remain closed’.

But residents have questioned why the car parks are still not open despite advice from the government allowing it to happen.

One resident who questioned the decision to keep the car parks closed with Crawley Council Leader Peter Lamb said of his response:

“His view is that despite the Government relaxing restrictions ( and these are to be relaxed even more next week ) he doesn’t agree with Boris Johnson and so has decided to maintain a total lockdown on all the parking that feeds into the largest open space in our town Tilgate Forest and Lake.”

How is it that our Council leader seems to know more about this crisis than our National Government and that despite all other resources being relaxed for example , National Parks throughput the UK are now open and the NT has opened all its beach and countryside locations – he still refuses to allow unencumbered  access for those needing to drive a short distance to use these spaces ( I live in Southgate but my dog has bad arthritis and so can’t manage the 3/4 mile road walk to get to Tilgate Forest by foot).

He has repeatedly told me that Tilgate is his biggest source of revenue and everyday it stays closed he is losing income – so why is he so resolutely opposed to giving back a massive area of natural beauty and Council income to the people of Crawley.”

So if Tilgate Park is off the books then where else is there?

Luckily Crawley has a wealth of parks with Broadfield Park, Goffs Park, Memorial Gardens, the Mill Pond and Bewbush Water Gardens, Southgate Park, West Green Park and Worth Park. And several of these have free parking with car parks acctually open.

The council has also provided information on smaller parks and playing fields across the whole town. For more details on Crawley’s gardens and parks visit

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said:

“Preventing a second outbreak of Covid-19 means practicing social distancing at all times when away from home. Current visitor numbers at Tilgate Park make enforcing social distancing impossible, which is why we are actively asking residents not to visit the park at this time.”

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