Ups and downs of town which grew most in past 100 years

Crawley History - The George Hotel, High Street ENGSUS00120130716154007
Crawley History - The George Hotel, High Street ENGSUS00120130716154007

The research was published by the Centre For Cities in a report called A Century of Cities, released alongside its Cities Outlook 2015 report, which monitors the economic development of the country’s largest cities and towns.

Since 1911 the population of Crawley (including Three Bridges, Ifield and Worth) has increased more than tenfold while the number of jobs available has gone up by almost 600 per cent.

The more recent economic picture has had community leaders rubbing their hands.

Between 2004 and 2013 there was a 7 per cent rise in available jobs – 10,200 – the 12th highest in the country, while the number of new businesses which started up during that period was 9.52 per every 10,000 of population.

The number of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance fell by just over 1 per cent and the employment rate – the number of people in work – rose by 1.3 per cent.

While evidence of the area’s prosperity is heartening, it must be noted the research lumped Reigate & Banstead in with Crawley – and it would be hard to find two more disparate areas. So how accurate a take on Crawley’s economy did the research record?

Cities Outlook 2015 states Crawley has “a much smaller legacy of low-skilled jobs”, but a report from the Office for National Statistics lists the town as having a high level of people with no qualifications, which it said “could be a reflection of those business sectors in Crawley requiring a lower skills level”.

It could be argued this was reflected in the only real negative statistics in the report.

While jobs were plentiful, between 2012 and 2014, the average weekly wage fell by £7.11 per week, the number of working people with no formal qualifications rose by a fraction of a per cent and the numbers with a qualification at NVQ4 or higher fell by 4.61 per cent.

As for the decision to put Crawley and Reigate & Banstead in the same pot, Cllr Smith said: “Crawley is a major economic centre in the Gatwick Diamond so, while these figures include another local authority area, the lion’s share of the statistics apply to our town. As our economy continues to grow, hopefully we’ll soon be included in Centre for Cities reports as a stand-alone ‘primary urban area’.”

Conservative leader Cllr Duncan Crow had a different view. He said: “If they have included Crawley in a wider area, it could be argued that Crawley doesn’t exist in isolation from our neighbours.”

Such an argument makes sense given the reliance the town’s economy has on the likes of Gatwick Airport.

While there can be no denying the population of Crawley has gone supernova in the past century, would it have done so without the decision to turn the Gatwick airfield into a major international airport? Probably not.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of Gatwick Diamond Business gave another example of Crawley’s economy drawing strength from the surrounding area – this time the planned 3,500-student campus Brighton University hopes to open in Horsham.

Mr Taylor said: “The report makes for interesting reading and shows Crawley – at the heart of the wider Gatwick Diamond region – as being a vibrant, growing economy with good prospects for those looking to start a business or gain employment.

“It’s still disappointing to see that we have a high number of employees without formal qualifications, but I would hope to see this start to change with the University of Brighton developments taking place.”