Plan to help Crawley’s economic recovery from pandemic

Crawley Borough Council’s draft economic recovery plan – known as One Town – is to undergo a six-week public consultation.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 10:50 am

The aim of the plan is to lay out a path to build up the town’s socio-economic prosperity in the years up to 2050 – starting with recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

Crawley has been hit particularly hard by Covid, with unemployment trebling to more than 8 per cent, 7,000 plus jobs lost at Gatwick, and some 25,800 residents – 41 per cent of the workforce – placed on furlough.

It’s the first time in decades that the town has had an unemployment problem.

During a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday (March 10), Peter Smith, cabinet member for planning & economic development, explained how the council would work on recovery with the likes of Gatwick Diamond, the Chamber of Commerce and the various Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

And for the first time, the neighbourhood parades and High Street Business Forum will have a seat at the table.

Mr Smith said: “All of these groups have an interest, have an investment in the town and they are all people who also contributed to make it work.

“No one part survives on its own in isolation.

“We’re a community and we exist together, we are going to recover from Covid together, and we’re going to build forwards better, attracting inward investment from businesses and from the private sector.”

Among the challenges laid out in the plan are the need to attract new businesses to Manor Royal, to create jobs and strengthen the skills of the local workforce – so fewer roles go to people from outside the town – and to establish Crawley as a low carbon economy where green technology businesses can thrive.

Gurinder Jhans (Lab, Northgate & West Green) described the scale of the challenge as ‘absolutely huge – mammoth’ but felt the plan was up to the job.

He added: “This really did reassure me that there is a pathway to recovery and there is a plan in place to get us to some kind of semblance of normality and get us on a footing for a brighter future.”

There was support from Conservative leader Duncan Crow – though he did question the decision to stretch the plan to 2050.

Pointing out that there had been three recessions since 1992 – 29 years ago, he added: “None of us know what’s going to happen in the next 29 years but we do have a reasonable idea for the next year or two.

“I’m quite optimistic that, if and when aviation can return to a greater normality than we have now, that Crawley will bounce right back.”

The consultation is scheduled to start after the elections in May.