Crawley New Town: the 20th Century Expansion

A variety of government planning committees during the second world war responded to the need to move industrial production away from London. They culminated in the Abercrombie Plan of 1944, which proposed the establishment of 10 satellite towns about 20-25 miles outside the capital, to accommodate a total of one and a half million relocated Londoners.

By the time the New Towns Act was passed in 1946, the number of proposed towns had grown to 20. Crawley was an obvious candidate: it was the right distance from London, it possessed good road and rail links, and it contained plenty of relatively poor quality agricultural land that could be built on.

By December 1947, the final appeals by landowners had been dismissed, and Crawley was officially to be the site of a New Town. The Crawley Development Corporation was given extensive planning powers and the right to compulsorily purchase land.

The Neighbourhoods

The original plan was to create a town capable of growing to accommodate a population of 50,000 within 15 years. There was to be an industrial area to the north of the town, and 9 residential areas known as ‘neighbourhoods’ arranged around the town centre.

By the time building began on the new neighbourhoods, the population target had increased to 60,000. The 9 original neighbourhoods were built in the following order:

  1. West Green
  2. Northgate
  3. Three Bridges
  4. Langley Green
  5. Pound Hill
  6. Ifield (originally intended to be called Ifield Green)
  7. Southgate
  8. Tilgate
  9. Gossops Green

The Final Expansion

By the 1960s, the New Town had become securely established, and was flourishing. Low unemployment meant a low surplus population, and hence a decrease in the power of capital over labour. Owners of local industry formed a pressure group, the Crawley Industrial Group, which campaigned for extra housing to be built to restore the natural order of things.

Two neighbourhoods, Furnace Green and Southgate West, were added within the original New Town designated area. In the 1970s, Broadfield and Bewbush were added, taking over land that had been within the boundary of Horsham Rural District Council. Expansion to Ifield and Pound Hill also went outside the original New Town boundary. The final expansion (so far) was the construction of Maidenbower in the 1990s.