Agenda item

Witness Sessions

The Panel has invited the following witnesses to attend the meeting to help inform the review.


Crawley Borough Council’s Community Services Manager Paula Doherty to present information on crime and safety at and around Crawley’s neighbourhood parades.


Councillor Peter Smith, Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development, to discuss the operation of the neighbourhood parades and provide relevant information for the Panel’s consideration.


Whilst these individuals are anticipated to speak at the meeting, this may change subject to availability and at the discretion of the Chair.  Further witnesses may be called in addition to, or instead of, those listed above.




The Chair introduced the invited witnesses, who had been asked to provide information on matters of interest to the Panel (as set out in the scoping framework).


Kate Wilson, Head of Community Services

Information was given from both the strategic and operational perspectives on controlling crime in Crawley.  Although there was not a widespread crime problem specifically at the neighbourhood parades, patches of ‘general nuisance’ behaviour had been identified.  Enforcement powers had been used under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as well as the Council’s recently extended Public Space Protection Order, which limited the consumption of alcohol in certain areas of the borough.  The Council worked closely with Sussex Police and the West Sussex Joint Action Group to respond collaboratively to issues of crime and anti-social behaviour.


It was also heard that the Council’s Neighbourhood Services team had undertaken litter and graffiti removal at and around the parades and nearby green spaces, as well as the investigation and removal of fly tipping at Langley Green parade which had resulted in prosecution.  Joint working arrangements with Sussex Police had helped to facilitate this.


It was emphasised that any concerns about crime or anti-social behaviour should be reported to the relevant authority; to Sussex Police on 999 or 101, or to Crawley Borough Council’s community wardens on 07884 492324.  Reports from residents or tenants were an essential part of tackling issues at Crawley’s parades.


Questions were then put to the Head of Community Services regarding the usage of CCTV cameras at the parades.  It was heard that CCTV was a useful tool that was operational in several locations and was managed by Sussex Police, but that installation and upkeep was of significant cost.  It was also possible that CCTV may push criminal activity to other areas, but there was scope for the Council to consider the use of mobile CCTV. 


Councillor Peter Smith, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development

Councillor Smith shared information and opinions with the Panel on a variety of matters regarding the neighbourhood parades.  It was felt that the parades were a key part of Crawley’s historic identity and that their community value remained high despite the growth of online shopping.  It was suggested that the Panel consider how to measure the success of the current parade policy; one indicator was the units’ occupancy rates.  The Panel heard that the Council’s income from the parades for 2019/20 had been £3 million, in the context of a total £15.8 million budget (for 2020/21).  It was concluded that a balance needed to be sought between welcoming a range of business types on the parades, maintaining affordable rates for tenants, and providing a valuable service to residents.


A question was put to the Cabinet member regarding plans for a shopping parade at the Forge Wood development.  It was explained that planning permission for the development had been obtained through a non-standard route, so it was believed that there was allocation for a parade, but this was to be confirmed.


It was emphasised that a careful balance needed to be struck when managing use classes and identifying appropriate businesses to occupy parade units. Possibilities for encouraging responsible retail were discussed – it was considered important to adopt policies that allow scope for the responsible sale and purchase of goods (e.g. alcohol or healthy food), but in a way that would not greatly restrict or remove freedoms for tenants or shoppers.


Discussion ensued regarding the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on shopping locally.  The Cabinet member encouraged a ‘buy local, shop local’ approach throughout the pandemic and into the future.


Following a question from the Chair regarding rental rates and reviews, the Cabinet member raised the following points:

·       A desire to make policy that benefitted local people.

·       Reductions in the Council’s budget over recent years.  As a result, the side-effects of any reductions in rental rates could force a reduction in, or increased charges for, other Council services.

·       If any rates were to be reduced, it was questioned how a fair policy would be formed that would decide the rates payable by different businesses.

·       Rates are currently set based on the going market rate for commercial property.




·       That the Head of Community Services report to the Panel information on the extent of CCTV coverage at the neighbourhood parades, and whether there is known to be any relationship between a CCTV presence and criminal activity.

·       That the Head of Community Services update the Panel as to whether publicity/guidance is given to shop tenants about how to report crime.

·       That the Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development report to Panel members regarding plans for a neighbourhood parade in Forge Wood.

·       That the themes and matters raised as part of the Panel’s discussion be carried forward for consideration at its future meetings.