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On Saturday we officially re-opened Queens Square with a public celebration. It may seem like it has taken a while to complete, but if a job's worth doing it's worth doing well. Afterall, it took ten years from Crawley's designation as a New Town for the original square to be completed.

The new design was chosen by residents from four options put together by the architects responsible for Leicester Square and while there was some scepticism at the beginning, the public response to the final product has been overwhelmingly positive. While we need to persuade owners of the surrounding buildings to invest in improving their properties, something we're working on, the council is certainly doing its part towards modernising the Town Centre.

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Queens Square is just the start, with works set to improve Queensway, the redevelopment of the Town Hall and Station sites, the Telford Place housing development and new businesses moving into the Town Centre. In fact, over the next few years a quarter of a billion pounds is set to be invested in the Town Centre, almost all from the private sector, to deliver more employment space, housing and better public facilities. It has taken a long time, but we're finally managing to deliver regeneration at a time schemes across the country are failing.

We shouldn't underestimate the importance of a vibrant town centre. At the time of the last census, retail remained the largest single source of employment for local residents and while we're working to develop the opportunities for people to re-train, we must do what we can to preserve existing jobs. Beyond that though, town centres provide a heart to the local community, an area of common ground for the whole community. You have only to research those American cities which have abandoned their town centres for strip malls and urban sprawl to see the way community bonds quickly break down without the physical areas for interaction.

No, we'll keep the heart of our community beating, no longer as simply a place to shop but also as a destination where we work, live and play.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Queens square re-opened

On Saturday we officially re-opened Queens Square with a public celebration. It may seem like it has taken a while to complete, but if a job's worth doing it's worth...

Cllr John StanleyMessage from Cllr Peter Smith 

I was devastated to learn of the death of my friend and colleague Cllr John Stanley on Tuesday, at the age of 46. John lived most of his life in Ifield and loved Ifield, Crawley and the Labour party. He worked tirelessly for our community and was a fantastic colleague. I had daily communications from him by text, email and 'phone and he kept me up to date on everything that was going on. He was always good natured and never had a bad word to say about anybody.

This was the last text that I got from him on Tuesday morning: "Morning did you have a good holiday". He knew everything that was going on and cared so much.

I've pictured him leading our successful campaign to get him re-elected to the Council in 2014 and with Chris Oxlade and me during the campaign.  

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I will miss you John and Ifield will be the poorer for your leaving us as well. 

Labour Leader Cllr Peter Lamb said “We are all going to miss John hugely.  He had a heart of gold and never had a bad word to say about anybody.  He was respected by all of his colleagues on the Council and in the Party and was a very hard-working Councillor for Ifield.  Our thoughts go out to his family at this very sad time.”

We will publish funeral details when they are available.  Please leave any messages using the comments item below.

Cllr John Stanley

Message from Cllr Peter Smith  I was devastated to learn of the death of my friend and colleague Cllr John Stanley on Tuesday, at the age of 46. John lived...

Housing is one of our biggest problems and frankly no one is getting to grips with it. 

We stopped building enough homes in the 1970s, after which Right-to-Buy undermined both the financial model for building council housing and the schemes council investment enabled. We're living longer lives in smaller households, so regardless of what happens with freedom of movement we're still going to need many more houses. Failure of supply to keep pace with demand means that not only are there too few homes to go around but, as people outbid one another, higher prices. 

Every week some new initiative is announced to get us building, yet nothing of the scale we need. We were promised that the Housing White Paper would deliver that change and I'm reliably informed the draft paper was everything which was promised, only for all its actual substance to be gutted by Number 10 worried a mass-building programme would play badly in the Tory shires. 

The failure is the planning system itself. Land is the most critical component in housing delivery and our system encourages shortages by only allocating the bare minimum sites in each area for development. So developers then outbid one another for the land, working out what they can sell the units for and subtracting their costs and profit margin to produce their bid. This means from the start our system assumes homes will be sold for the maximum possible price. Worse still, if they pay too much the planning system allows them to avoid local requirements for affordable housing and infrastructure on the grounds of 'viability', the housing equivalent of saying you've spent too much money so we'll let you off your income tax. 

There are two solutions. One, get rid of Planning and let developers build whatever they want wherever they want, prices would certainly drop but everyone would suffer from badly designed localities. Two, look to Crawley's history, another centrally-driven programme of New Town building, buying land at agricultural prices and building out whole communities with the infrastructure they need. Both would work, but I know which one I'd rather see.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

 

Getting a grip on Housing

Housing is one of our biggest problems and frankly no one is getting to grips with it.  We stopped building enough homes in the 1970s, after which Right-to-Buy undermined both...

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