Crawley Council wants backing for £45m ‘Mini-Holland’ infrastructure bid

Crawley Borough Council has submitted an expression of interest to the government, drawn up with West Sussex County Council support, for much needed funds to invest in streetscape infrastructure across the town.

The council said that if successful, the £45m ‘Mini-Holland’, will relieve congestion, improve health and air quality and transform neighbourhoods for the better.

However, West Sussex County Council and Crawley MP, Henry Smith, now say they will not back the bid, which the council said is “hugely disappointing” for residents and businesses.

Letters of support has been received from both Gatwick Airport and Crawley Town Centre Business Improvement District, amongst others for the scheme.

The government is inviting expressions of interest and wants to invest significantly in 12 pilot local authority areas, outside of London, after the success of three Mini-Holland schemes in the capital.

The council believes that Crawley is the ideal place to implement a Mini-Holland programme.

They say this would revitalise the town with healthy, people-oriented streetscapes, improving residents’ living environment, active travel options and health outcomes,
which is a key priority of the West Sussex Health and Wellbeing Board.

According to Crawley Council, the borough has:

  • The need for urgent action on climate change, health and wellbeing and the economy.
  • The best suited geography and neighbourhood structure.
  • The ability to deliver and a track record of delivery.
  • The support from key partners.

West Sussex County Council’s Economy Reset Plan 2020-2024 specifically states that rebuilding the economy post-pandemic in Crawley is a priority.

As well as this, Crawley is the only town cited in the plan’s themes and much reference is made of supporting infrastructure to assist its recovery.

The county council’s Reset Plan 2021 to 2025 also specifically states that rebuilding the economy post-pandemic in Crawley is a priority and working in partnership to do this will be essential.

The plan states that priority outcomes include, sustainable prosperous economies based on climate change, local economy, road network and shared spaces.

Crawley Borough Council believes that the Mini-Holland bid is the most fitting project to underpin the county council’s priorities.

West Sussex Council is part of the Crawley Economic Recovery Taskforce, which has endorsed the Crawley Economic Recovery Plan, currently out to consultation, which advocates the ‘green transformation’ of the borough’s economy and infrastructure.

Commenting, Crawley Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development, Councillor Peter Smith said:

“This opportunity for a significant £45m investment in Crawley’s infrastructure, much of which is over 50 years old now and shows it, is too good to miss.

“The investment would be transformational for the town and improve many of our residents’ top issues, things like potholes, pavements and general street scene, while improving air quality, helping us to meet our carbon reduction targets and creating jobs.

“We want to work with the government and county council to make this a reality.

“If the county council and MP don’t back this bid, Crawley could be forever deprived of these improvements. Why should Crawley miss out?”

In response, Leader of West Sussex County Council, Councillor Paul Marshall said:

“We are committed to supporting the economic regeneration of Crawley and have made it one of our council priorities.

"I’m very disappointed that Crawley Borough Council has issued a statement like this when the county council has been doing everything it can to help the town’s economic regeneration.

“The borough council itself was aware there was insufficient time for county councillors and other stakeholders to be consulted and fully consider the Mini-Holland bid.

"The government made it clear that high-level political support was a pre-requisite for a bid to succeed. 

“For a scheme of this magnitude to be feasible, the local community has to be behind it, especially considering the highway restructuring and restrictions it would involve and changes for all road users.

“The borough needs to demonstrate to the county council and the local MP that all stakeholders have been fully consulted and engaged with and until then it will not be possible to support the bid.”

“Be of no doubt, as I have said, Crawley’s economic regeneration is a very important priority.

"As shown through the ongoing, multimillion-pound Crawley Growth Programme, with the £8.85m Eastern Gateway scheme, currently under construction, being one example of how we are working with our partners to make improvements a reality.

“We believe there is every possibility of funding being available for future bids similar to the Mini-Holland one.

"[We] would welcome the opportunity of working with the borough council and all other stakeholders and partners in a constructive way for the benefit of Crawley’s residents and its economy.

“We take sustainable transport very seriously and one of our priorities is to improve or introduce cycling infrastructure across the county.

"In 2019/2020, the county council completed a new, 1.2km shared cycleway/footway in Ifield Avenue, Crawley, and we continue to work with our partners on Crawley Growth Programme schemes, which include provision for cyclists.

“Over the last three years, the county council has been working in partnership with a number of district and borough councils, including Crawley Borough Council, to develop Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.

"These plans will help to direct investment and will support future bids for government funding to progress priority schemes that align with new national cycling design guidance published last year.”

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