August is typically a quiet month for councillors. The regular cycle of committee meetings takes a pause and party politics remains on hiatus following the year’s local elections. It’s a time when we can catch up on the backlog of casework, read in greater depth about the issues facing local government and consider the longer-term strategic questions facing Crawley. Of course, holidays also have their place.
Clearly the presence of Gatwick in Crawley means tourism has a significant impact upon the town. The obvious implications of this be they economic, environmental or infrastructural have all been well-rehearsed as part of the decades long debate regarding a new runway. Yet, the impact of tourism on Crawley extends far beyond the airport campus.
We’re home to considerably more than our fair share of hotels and hospitality is a major source of local employment. While most of the usage may well be directly connected to Gatwick, that in no way diminishes the importance of tourism to the town or avoids the fact that the consequences of government policy in relation to the sector could be just as severe for Crawley as in more recognisable tourist hotspots.
Crawley’s attractions are also a draw for those vacationing nearby. K2, the Hawth and the Town Centre are amongst the facilities used by those staying in the area and I’ve heard tell of bus tours stopping off in Tilgate for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. When Crawley’s new museum opens its doors it is hoped that the much improved facility will also prove popular for those staying in the area.
Decisions taken by central government have an enormous impact upon tourism and yet their costs and consequences are decidedly local, in fact many municipalities outside of the UK impose a tax on those staying in hotels to cover those costs. Councils need much more of a say on the policies which affect local tourism and it is one of the many areas which justify the request that when Brexit negotiations commence local government at the very least gets a seat at the table.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council