‘We can’t squeeze them in’ - population grows faster than houses can be built

Crawley’s population is growing quicker than houses can be built, a councillor has warned.

Cllr Claire Denman, Crawley Borough Council (CBC) deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and economic development, gave a blunt evaluation of the future of housing during the Crawley Debate at the Civic Hall on Wednesday (February 6).

She cited the vast safeguarded areas, large airport, low sewage capacity and the 106,000 population as reasons for the ‘challenging times ahead’.

She said: “The bottom line is we are tasked with accommodating our demographic growth by looking at the population growth.

“We need 550 dwellings per annum. There’s no way we will hit that target. We are looking at 240 dwellings per annum.

“We are reaching the point where we are going to have to say we can’t keep squeezing people in.”

A resident asked why more offices had not been developed into flats.

Cllr Denman said offices were very expensive and the council had to prove it was essential to take them before purchase.

She added that this was a good option in the town centre and there was one application for this type of development in The Broadway.

Eddy Hills, District Commissioner for Crawley District Scouts, said he worried new housing developments had not provided facilities for young people.

Cllr Denman agreed that Ifield West did not provide enough for young people but that the council would ensure it learned from its mistakes.

A Three Bridges resident said houses were being built without concern for the knock-on effects which were outside the council’s control such as road maintenance, parking, water supply, flooding and health and rail services.

Another resident said he worried neighbourhoods were losing their ability to work as hubs and losing their community feel. Peter Mansfield-Clarke, director of Crawley Open House, replied: “I’ve watched Crawley grow up for 68 years now and seriously think we should be really really proud of Crawley. It’s grown into something quite spectacular. From the very start it grew up with the hubs and it’s carried on in that way. It’s always worked and it always will work as a whole.

“It’s going to work but it needs all of us to support it.”