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The changing face of Crawley Town Centre

Friday, April 29, 2016 By Neil Cooper MRICS

As a member of the Crawley Town Centre Partnership Board I am excited by the changes afoot within the Crawley retail Town Centre area, particularly given the significant setback it received when the plans for its substantial expansion (Town Centre North) were scuppered by the recession in 2008+.

Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council are jointly funding the revitalisation of Queens Square, the traditional heart of the town centre. The work is set to commence in June this year and to complete some 10 months later. Costing £3.2m the scheme will involve the creation of a high quality, inviting, distinctive and enjoyable public space encouraging more people to visit, stay and make use of the area.

The above will dovetail nicely with Decathlon, Europe’s largest sports retailer, opening who have effectively taken the whole of the east side of Queens Square. They are now on site fitting out to trade over 2 floors. This removes a significant vacant retail frontage from the Square. The retailer has confirmed that the proposed transformation of the Square directly influenced their decision to commit to the town centre.

Together with many other town centre locations, the occupation of Crawley town centre is changing with office accommodation being converted, under Permitted Development Rights, to residential. Putting the pros and cons of the loss of office space to one side, this new mix with the influx of residential occupiers should stimulate the economy of the town centre, including in the evenings and at night time, hopefully for the benefit of all so long as the potential anti-social issues associated with the same can be successfully managed.

A significant number of larger office buildings within the immediate town centre area and its periphery are undergoing change of use to residential. These include Woodall Duckham House (185 residential units), Stoner House (76 units), Central House (44 units) and the Crown Buildings (24 units). The conversion of upper floors above retail units has also been taken place or is intended. Much of this space had sat empty for some time.

Redevelopment requiring planning consent is also planned. The Arora Group are proposing the long awaited redevelopment of Overline House and Crawley railway station. This will include 308 residential units together with a new station transforming the same into an attractive, inviting and safe gateway, with improved linkage, to the town centre/the County Mall Shopping Centre. An application has also been submitted for the construction of 90 flats on the car park at Central Sussex College. Consent is also in place for the redevelopment of No’s 15 – 29 The Broadway which will provide new retail space at ground floor level and 78 residential units above.

The Council has also been working hard, in conjunction with the Crawley Town Centre Partnership Board, in focusing on a variety of issues to improve the ‘consumer’ experience of the town centre and this work is ongoing. Initiatives include ‘Healthy High Streets’ spearheaded by multiple retailers who are members of the Board providing expertise to help strengthen the town centre business environment. The County Mall Shopping Centre, an integral part of the town centre, also has representation on the Board.

Undoubtedly the facelift of Queens Square, the redevelopment of the railway station site and an increasing resident population will alter the feel of the town centre. It should create a positive environment which will stimulate further improvements, acting as a catalyst to others to enhance their town centre property holdings. And all this is to happen at a time when Crawley has been revealed as one of only 7 retail centres in the UK where footfall has increased in the first 3 months of 2016 compared to the year before (Ipsos – Retail Performance).

As leading retail agents in Crawley we fully expect a new lease of life to be injected into its town centre.

For further information please contact Neil Cooper on 01293 401040 or email