Property in Crawley: great transport links, lots of green space and huge regeneration plans for this commuter-friendly West Sussex town
The housing crisis that followed the Second World War saw the pleasant country village of Crawley transformed into a concrete, brutalist new town for bombed-out Londoners.
Today, the Government is once again turning to the commuter-friendly West Sussex town to provide overspill homes.
For London leavers, there are reasons to put Crawley on the shortlist. Its transport links are great: a trip to Victoria takes 42 minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £3,512. And its location between the capital and Brighton is very handy.
Gatwick airport is four miles away, but doesn’t inflict flightpath noise on Crawley, while most of the town’s schools hold “good” Ofsted reports.
For green space, High Weald and the South Downs National Park are near. The town is also a focus of plenty of regeneration money, so a home here could be a great investment.
Yet Crawley has, with depressing regularity, found a place in the Crap Towns series of books which iterates the UK’s worst places. It is, according to the editors, dull, suburban, ugly, with horrid houses and “a cultural life that makes Milton Keynes look like the Weimar Republic”.
It is certainly true that Crawley’s uninspired estate houses and tired and dated-looking mid-century homes don’t win any prizes for kerb appeal.
However, in the current climate, affordability is becoming a more important issue to buyers than aesthetics and an average home in Crawley costs £358,000, according to Rightmove. A detached house will set you back £485,000.
Since 2016 prices are up from an average of £313,000, as a flow of incomers has helped bolster the local housing market.
In the centre of town, property is mostly small flats. John Freeman, business manager at Andrews estate agents, says most commuters opt for houses in the suburbs of Worth or Three Bridges.
Younger buyers cluster around Three Bridges, where a four-bedroom Fifties house costs £400,000 to £500,000, and get to London Bridge from the local station in 35 minutes.
Worth, with its larger Thirties and Forties houses typically attracts families with teenagers. Expect to pay £500,000 to £525,000 for a detached four-bedroom home.
On the outskirts of town, notably in Ifield, a satellite village almost, but not quite, engulfed by urban sprawl, are some lovely timber-frame thatched cottages.
Beyond Crawley, pretty villages offer a country lifestyle in reach of the town’s facilities.
Emma Bridge, associate director of Hamptons International, recommends Turners Hill, five miles west of Crawley station and on the edge of the lovely High Weald.
“It has some good schools, it is green and leafy, and there are some older-style properties,” says Bridge. A three-bedroom former workers cottage would cost about £550,000 in Turners Hill, with a rambling Victorian villa at £1 million plus.
Dreary Crawley town centre is dominated by basic high street brands in the County Mall, and a dismal mix of empty shops and pound stores in streets around it.
There are four McDonald’s, three Pizza Huts and not a single restaurant recommended by the Good Food Guide. However, the council has begun work on new pavements, benches, trees, lighting and cycle routes.
Queens Square, pictured below, a Sixties concrete plaza, has had a £3.19 million upgrade, with planters and fountains.
Last summer the council granted permission for its town hall to be redeveloped, with up to 182 flats, a new public square and new council offices, all designed by award-winning architects Cartwright Pickard and due to complete in 2022.
Another 313 new homes will be built in the town centre by Clarion Housing Group, replacing a two-acre car park.
Half will be for shared ownership or affordable rents. Homes England, the Government’s housing agency, says there is space for 10,000 new homes at the fringes of the town, close to Ifield Brook Meadows, with a third lower-cost.
This proposal is, however, at the very earliest of stages, and months, if not years, of consultation on what is inevitably going to be a controversial greenfield building project will be needed before plans can be drawn up.