In the 1950s the High Street was the hub of the town, it was where everyone shopped, socialised and met.
Most people walked into town for their shopping and entertainment. Fast forward to 2014 and the High Street is just a short term car park, lined with estate agents and a gradually growing amount of restaurants and bars. There is hardly a single shop left in it. During the day it is practically deserted, it only comes to life after dark. Everyone comes into town by car, or bus, hardly any one has a need to go to the High Street, any more.
Meanwhile Queens Square is dying. Shops are haemorrhaging out of the town at an alarming rate. Crawley is beginning to look like a ghost town. Supermarkets and on-line shopping have all played their part in the decline, but so have our town planners.
On a Wednesday, the town had begun to show signs of life. Having Crawley Market, central in the town, like Redhill and Horsham, has attracted shoppers from out of the County Mall, to the benefit of other shops and businesses in the square. I know many other stall holders have been waiting to see if this arrangement was to be made permanent, before committing themselves to setting up here. Both the High Street and Queens Square desperately need re-generating. What Crawley needs is a council with vision, creative ideas and a workable plan, for the foreseeable future. What do we get? The market traders given three days notice, to move back to the High Street. The owner has said that if that happens, he will pull out of Crawley altogether, leaving the traders without their stalls and taking away their businesses.
This decision was taken behind closed doors, without a vote, without consultation with, or consideration for the market traders, many of whom have served this town for 30 years and more, in good times and bad, and without consulting the Crawley residents who have supported and shopped in the market for years. West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council have £3 million pounds to spend on Queens Square. Why don’t they purchase some attractive, semi-permanent, weather proof stalls, that can be used, not just by Crawley market, but craft fairs, antique fairs, charity promotions and Continental markets? More productive than relaying the paving slabs!
The ruling Conservative party may believe they have a mandate to do what they like, because they were elected into office, but that does not give them the right to ride rough shod over the livelihoods of the market traders and to ignore the wishes of the residents of Crawley. A petition to save the Wednesday Market in Queens Square attracted over 1800 signatures in three days!
Millions of pounds are being spent to preserve the Tree building and to turn it into a museum.
Will old photos on its walls, be all we have left of our historic market, which has been in existence since 1202?
Cllr Sue Mullins, West Sussex County Council (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East)