Last week, I observed the first Planning Committee meeting at Crawley Borough Council meeting since May’s local elections. I was interested as to how this meeting would go, as Labour had imposed one of their Councillors of just one year’s experience as new Committee Chairman, as well as a new Vice-Chairman who was a brand new Councillor with no experience whatsoever.
One planning application was for Metrobank in Queens Square in Crawley town centre, which was retrospective for the nice new building that already exists, as there had been a minor breech from the original application. In a nutshell, the windows were larger than they were supposed to be.
While it is right that any planning breach is looked at, it is also right that common sense prevails when the impact of what has actually been developed is assessed. Literally everyone I have asked since that meeting, has shared my opinion that Crawley’s Metrobank building improves and brightens up Queens Square. However, this view wasn’t shared by the five Labour members on the committee. They all took the view that Metrobank should be forced to replace their large attractive windows with smaller ones, to better match some grotty 1950s buildings nearby, which felt to me like socialism in action by dragging the best down.
While voting on Planning Committee isn’t done on political party lines, it was an unfortunate coincidence that with Labour having five Councillors on the committee and Conservatives having four, that Metrobank’s planning application was refused by five votes to four along party lines. This now means Metrobank will have to spend up to £300,000 to replace these windows, have scaffolding up for several weeks and maybe close the branch for some periods to enable major work to take place. This is money that Metrobank would rather invest in the community!
Over the last couple of years, Crawley has lost two banks in Three Bridges and the RBS bank on Crawley High Street. When a new bank sets up in Crawley and brings life to our town centre, Councillors should welcome that, not look to punish them.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
12th June 2019