Well, I can think of some negative aspects of Crawley.
Firstly, I went for a night out last Friday. Only, because I wanted to go somewhere fairly relaxed with good music (preferably live) and which didn’t close at 11pm, there was very little choice locally. So I went to Brighton and had a great time, ended up at the Walkabout where there was a covers band doing everything from AC/DC to Outkast, no idiots around, good bar service comfy chairs…
What does Crawley have? Ikon/Diva, Brannigans and Bar Med if you want to listen to the same old music (ok, nothing wrong with house, rap, etc. but not everybody’s cup of tea). A variety of pubs, but very few with live music and a good atmosphere combined. It seems that any attempt to widen the cultural sphere of Crawley is doused by our collective lack of ambition. Yeah, there’s a Blues Club. But does anybody know where it is (I do, by the way)? This weekend is the Folk Festival, which is pretty good, but what happens the other weekends?
Secondly, I hate to say it, but there is a certain mentality in the town. A kind of inverted snobbery which seems to mean that people snipe at anyone with any originality or vision. A lack of ambition for the town (and so for ourselves). We can’t have a second runway at Gatwick, oh no! Apparently the employment base is too skewed in that direction anyway. But if an alternative crops up – like the proposed extensions to shopping areas (and we already attract shoppers from miles around), it’s like a red-rag to a bull for some. Can we have a successful football team? Sure, we do. But for some it’s simply a parking problem. And public art? Oh no!! the equivalent of halfpenny each is spent on a work of art and it’s the main gripe in the local papers for weeks…
So, yeah, I can whinge like the best of them myself.
But, really, Crawley is not too bad a place. Firstly, we don’t have major problems with unemployment and poverty. There are deprived areas, and I don’t want to belittle the problems of people caught up in difficult circumstances, but the vast majority of the town is comfortable. Crime is low (and falling). The town is very pleasant to look at. Perhaps people don’t agree, or they think it has deteriorated, but perhaps we should look around. Find a town of similar size to Crawley – such as Northampton. How green is it? does it have trees in almost every street? Walk around the town centre – how much of it looks run down? Crawley certainly isn’t perfect, but there are far worse places to be.
Crawley is thriving. As a result, it is growing. This seems to be one of the main gripes of the locals. There aways has been a tension between the generations in society, and with more people moving here for work, the older ones, who move here from London in the post-war period, have a warm memory of the old New Town. Unfortunately, that memory cannot be preserved in reality forever, the place will change. The alternative to growth is stagnation. The young will leave, the economy will be affected, the town will fall into decline, inhabited by the old and those who can’t get away. (shudder).
I’m not saying that unfettered growth is good. But, if we are to house the people who live here now, we need to expand, before we even think about those who are attracted to the place. There are hundreds of people in my generation around the town still living at home. I’m 30!! I’m lucky enough to have been in a position to buy, but I know that I am lucky. Many others are not so fortunate and they need help. Avoiding the issue, as many people would seem to want to do, will mean two things – major, controlled development won’t happen, so we don’t get the kind of housing we need, in the right place and for the right price; minor, uncontrolled development (such as knocking down a house or two and replacing them with flats, infill, etc) will happen, prices will stay high and the town will become cluttered.