This coming Saturday will be High Street Saturday, which is a new campaign day that aims to celebrate our town centres and high streets. As part of the day, people are encouraged to pledge to shop locally, share photos and messages online using #HighStreetSaturday, and to encourage local councils like Crawley to make good use of the Future High Street Fund. This is a fund that is provided by the Government to help make high streets and town centres fit for the future.
Town centres have long been a place to bring communities together, a place for local people to access vital services and a place where local businesses can thrive. However, we all recognise that it is becoming harder for town centre businesses to compete with out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers.
While Crawley has fared better than smaller towns, the Conservative government have recognised these challenges and is providing dedicated assistance for our town centres. Business rates are often cited as a concern which is why over £10 billion of business rates support has been provided since 2016, including cutting small retailers’ bills by a third.
Both Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council continue to strongly invest in Crawley town centre and I am confident it has a bright future. New life has been brought into Crawley town centre thanks to the Government relaxing planning rules, to transform long-term empty office blocks into new housing. This is known as permitted development and we have some great examples of this on The Boulevard in our town centre. This has also of course helped to provide much needed housing.
Indeed, the answer to a formal written question that I submitted to Crawley Borough Council revealed that between 2015 and 2017, virtually half of all new housing in Crawley had come via the Government’s permitted development route. This is good news, but what I don’t like is the hypocrisy of Labour Councillors in Crawley who have consistently opposed permitted development and yet whose election leaflets are claiming credit for all the new housing in Crawley that has come forward.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
13th March 2019