CRAWLEY is fast shaking off its reputation as the dull kid on the block. It was developed as a New Town after the Second World War for people moving out of London. The design was originally anchored around nine neighbourhoods (now there are thirteen), each comprising a shopping parade, primary school, church, pub, community hall and playing fields. The first new-towners moved in during 1949, when Gatwick Airport was no more than a wartime runway on boggy ground on the town’s outskirts. Today, jobs at Gatwick Airport are plentiful, and the factory estates and business parks that have grown up around it include every kind of industry from light manufacturing to pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs.
The Borough Council has been busy re-inventing Crawley in recent years with a massive investment and smart new shops. The town now has a state-of-the-art £37m sports centre, K2, with a 50m pool, climbing wall, athletics track, all-weather pitches, tennis and badminton courts, and is a designated training ground for the 2012 Olympics. Crawley Skate Park is popular with boarders and bikers. A huge investment in education has provided three new secondary schools and the Central Sussex College campus plus a new library complex (opened in 2008.). Plans are afoot for a £750m town centre redevelopment due to finish in 2015. Public transport has had a makeover and now a 24-hour bus service enables people to leave the car at home.
People moving to the area would probably choose to live in one of the neighbouring villages, or closer to Three Bridges station. For £160,000 it is possible to get one of the original three-bedroom semis put up at the beginning of the new town. Studio flats start at £70,000 and one-bedroom flats at £110,000. The original neighbourhoods are still identifiable. West Green, for instance, was one of the first, with its rows of brick terraces and some older railway workers’ cottages. The less popular neighbourhoods of Broadfield, Bewbush and Langley Green are changing as people buy ex-council properties. There are plans to create a new neighbourhood of 2,500 homes to the west of Crawley.