I’m proud that our previous Conservative Administration at Crawley Borough Council of 2006 - 2014 made many improvements to Tilgate Park. The Nature Centre had major investment with new attractions added such as the Meerkats. Under our tenure, the empty pub building became a popular western-themed restaurant, treetop walks and boating on Tilgate Lake were introduced, the large children’s play area had a major upgrade, the outdoor gym was installed, a new clubhouse was built for the golf course and the driving range was improved. We also increased the size of the car parks and put in the A23 access road to help reduce traffic going through Tilgate.
Since 2014 when Labour won control of the Council, there has been further investment in the Nature Centre, but there has also been a big hiking up of the entry charges to it, as well as a big increase in the car park charges. These increased charges for Tilgate Park are part of the “income generation" that was much-lauded by Crawley Labour in the recent local elections.
Last week we found out that Crawley Labour’s “income generation” had gone too far. My colleague, Tilgate Councillor Francis Guidera, was contacted by an Ifield parent after pupils from Ifield Community College were going to be charged £238 by the Council for their annual sponsored charity walk to Tilgate Park. Francis instantly raised this with the Council and publicised this outrageous charge on social media, which attracted the public criticism that was needed to force the Council to reverse its decision.
The Council Leader spun this as “a storm in a teacup” in a public comment, saying it was changed once he was informed about it. What he failed to mention is that his own Deputy Leader who is the Ifield Councillor whom the school had originally approached, had defended the charge in his formal response to the school, stating that the £238 charge “feels reasonable.” We strongly disagree, and also take the view that when you get something badly wrong, you shouldn’t try to spin your way out of it but should simply apologise.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Conservative Group
23rd May 2019