A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.
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The development corporation turned its attention immediately to the provision of mains services outlined in the master plan. A new sewage works was proposed on Rolls farm, Horley (Surr.), north-east of the new town. (fn. 1) The corporation became the sewerage authority in 1948; until a new works could be built the Horsham rural district council's County Oak works was to be used. (fn. 2) The new works was opened in 1952. (fn. 3) It was then capable of serving a population of 10,000, and was extended several times in the 1950s, five units being finished by 1958. (fn. 4) The sewerage undertaking was transferred to the urban district council in 1961. (fn. 5) From 1974 it became the responsibility of the Thames Water Authority, with the borough council as agent. (fn. 6)
The master plan estimated the water requirements of a population of 50,000 as 3 million gallons a day, and proposed a reservoir at Forest Row near East Grinstead. (fn. 7) The new town was at first served by four separate water authorities, with whom the development corporation negotiated to improve supplies; it had applied in 1948 to establish the Weir Wood Joint Water Board to provide for future needs. (fn. 8) The board was set up in 1950 under the Weir Wood Water Order, 1949. Meanwhile the Mid Sussex Joint Water Board agreed to supply an extra 350,000 gallons a day from September 1952. (fn. 9) By 1952 the corporation had completed a reservoir at Pease Pottage, south of the town, holding 250,000 gallons, and the main Weir Wood reservoir was finished by 1954. (fn. 10) It was officially opened in 1955. (fn. 11) In 1959 that board replaced the Weir Wood board, Cuckfield rural district council, and the Mid Sussex Joint Water Board as water authorities for Crawley. (fn. 12) From 1974 the Southern Water Authority provided water as far north as the industrial estate; the Gatwick area north of that was served by Thames Water. (fn. 13)
The growth of the new town required plans to be made for enlarging the gas-producing plant at Redhill and increasing the storage capacity of Horley gasworks (both in Surrey). (fn. 14) A high-pressure gas main from Croydon to Crawley was begun c. 1949 (fn. 15) and opened in 1953. (fn. 16) The corporation from the first provided street lighting in the new roads in residential areas. (fn. 17)
The general post office north of the Boulevard was opened in 1959. (fn. 18) Sub-post offices had been opened in most areas by 1956. (fn. 19) A telephone exchange in Kilnmead was opened in 1961. (fn. 20)
A central fire station between Ifield Avenue and London Road was begun by West Sussex county council c. 1955 and finished c. 1958. (fn. 21)
The master plan devoted as much attention to the disposal of the dead as to the health of the living, estimating that up to 600 deaths a year must be provided for. The expected shift from burial to cremation justified the allowance of an 8-a. site at Forge Wood, north-east of the town, for a crematorium to be surrounded by a hedge 50 yd. thick. (fn. 22) When it was opened in 1956, under private management, it had been enlarged to cover 20 a. (fn. 23) The plan expected that the existing cemetery at West Green would suffice for burials during the building of the town, but foresaw the need for an additional site at Broadfield, (fn. 24) which had not been brought into use by 1984.
The master plan also expected that a large new general hospital would be needed and reserved a site for it south-east of the Hawth. The existing district hospital in West Green would be demolished. (fn. 25) Although that scheme was supported by the development corporation and the urban district council, the regional hospital board decided instead to replace the district hospital on its existing site, a decision confirmed after a public inquiry in 1957-8. (fn. 26) The first stage of the new building was begun in 1959 and completed in 1961; it included maternity, outpatients', and casualty departments. (fn. 27) The second stage, providing a further 264 beds, was started in 1966 and opened in 1970. (fn. 28) A third stage was completed in 1981. (fn. 29) Adjoining the hospital a home for 140 nurses was built in 1963-5. (fn. 30) Three health clinics were suggested in the master plan; (fn. 31) a single clinic was built by the county council from 1959 to 1961 as part of its offices north of the Boulevard. (fn. 32) The numerous day nurseries suggested in the plan (fn. 33) were not built. An ambulance station was opened as part of the county buildings in Exchange Road, Northgate, in 1963. (fn. 34) In the 1970s or early 1980s it was moved to West Green playing field. (fn. 35)
In general practice there were 22 doctors and 12 dentists in Crawley in 1958, (fn. 36) 24 doctors and 17 dentists in 1960, (fn. 37) 35 doctors and 24 dentists in the early 1970s, (fn. 38) and at least 46 doctors and 37 dentists c. 1984. (fn. 39)
The county buildings in Exchange Road, Northgate, opened in 1963 included a new police headquarters and magistrates' courts. (fn. 40)
Accommodation in the new town was treated as a public service. Local-authority housing was at first reserved for established residents and their families; (fn. 41) homes for newcomers were provided by the development corporation and later by the Commission for the New Towns. At first the corporation planned a mixture of 15 per cent flats and 85 per cent houses, but it soon found that far fewer people wanted a flat, and most wanted their own garden. Moreover flats cost more to build than houses of equivalent size. (fn. 42) Thus while in the early neighbourhoods of West Green and Northgate nearly 23 per cent and 13 per cent respectively of dwellings were flats, later neighbourhoods had fewer flats. (fn. 43) The height of buildings was restricted to three storeys, although it was expected that high-rise blocks might be built in the town centre later. Types of dwelling included bungalows, detached, semidetached, and terrace houses of one to five bedrooms, and three-storeyed flats to a variety of plans. Some were designed by the corporation's own architects, others by private architects, who were also entrusted with the layout of some housing schemes. All the early dwellings were of traditional construction, without prefabrication. (fn. 44) Later experiments with prefabricated buildings proved unsuccessful and were quickly abandoned. (fn. 45) The corporation had completed 18 different types of dwelling by 1949, 30 by 1951, and nearly 250 by its dissolution in 1962. (fn. 46)
At first house building proceeded slowly, because mains services had to be finished first; only 721 dwellings were completed by 1952. (fn. 47) By 1955, however, 4,480 had been built, (fn. 48) by 1958 there were 9,377, (fn. 49) and by 1962 over 10,800. Building continued at a slower rate under the Commission for the New Towns; a further 1,574 dwellings had been completed by 1970 (fn. 50) and a further 882 by 1977, making a total of 13,259. (fn. 51) In 1978 the commission's remaining housing stock was transferred to the borough council. (fn. 52)
Housing was affected throughout by the tergiversations of government policy. The development corporation was obliged to balance its housing account and thus from the first charged rents some 25 per cent higher than those for local-authority housing. The relationship between the capital cost of a dwelling and the rent which the tenant could afford to pay was 'a serious problem'. Since the balance had to be struck for each individual housing scheme, rents on similar houses varied. When in 1955 the corporation obtained leave to balance its account on average rents, it had to raise the rents of older houses, provoking a rent strike. The local Labour party treated the dispute as a political issue, exploiting the corporation's position as an unelected landlord, but the corporation successfully rode out the strike. (fn. 53)
Also from 1955, again following government policy, the corporation allotted land to private firms to build houses for sale. (fn. 54) In 1961 it was decided that houses for subsidized renting should be built by the local authority; the corporation should concentrate on houses for economic rent or sale, complementing the efforts of private builders. It was expected that of c. 2,600 houses to be built by 1966, the urban district council would build 400 and the corporation and private firms would each build half the rest. In fact the private firms, which were required to sell most of their houses to local residents, built only 300. Also in the early 1960s the corporation and its successor recognized needs for more middle-class houses, for old people's homes, and for small houses or flats for newly married couples. Sites were also allotted to self-build groups. (fn. 55)
It was claimed that private builders sold mainly to London commuters, and the government agreed in 1966 first that 3,600 houses, then that 4,600, should be built in the next five years to meet an expected requirement for 5,000; permission was granted on condition that 3,000 families moving from London should be housed. The commission was to build 2,000 of the new houses, the urban district council 1,600, and private firms the rest. (fn. 56) The programme was delayed by planning difficulties (fn. 57) and by 1970 fewer than half those prescribed in each category had been built. (fn. 58)
From 1970 the Conservative government encouraged the commission to sell houses to tenants at a loss and severely restricted its powers to build, although the delayed five-year programme could be completed. Other new public-sector housing was to be provided by the local authority. (fn. 59) It had become clear by 1966 that most tenants wished to buy their homes but could not afford to do so. (fn. 60) The commission sold 55 houses in 1970-1, 1,505 in 1971-2, 1,105 in 1972-3, and 154 in 1973-4; applications to buy far outnumbered sales. (fn. 61) The government urged the commission to give free rein to private builders in matters of design, layout, and marketing, but the commission felt that it should still meet the special needs of newly married couples and of key workers. Developers were, however, willing to co-operate with it. (fn. 62)
The Labour government in April 1974 forbade further sales to tenants, encouraged repurchases, discouraged land disposals to developers, and shifted the burden of new building to housing associations, which were allotted land for 570 houses in that year. (fn. 63) The borough council was authorized in 1975 to build 500 houses a year, but later claimed that government cuts had prevented it from meeting its target. In 1977 it began to build 700 houses in the new south-western neighbourhoods for London boroughs which were to meet the costs in return for nomination rights for 10 years. (fn. 64) Even after the sales of the early 1970s Crawley had a high proportion of publicly owned housing. In 1978 the borough council owned 4,561 dwellings, and the Commission for the New Towns 9,974, which were then transferred to the council; 10,758 were privately owned. (fn. 65) Owneroccupied housing formed 19 per cent of the total in 1961, 28 per cent in 1971, and 39 per cent in 1981. (fn. 66)
In the early planning of the new town the growth of motoring was not widely foreseen, and government policy discouraged the development corporation from building garages. (fn. 67) Government fixed the ratio of garages to houses at 1 to 12 in 1951. (fn. 68) By the late 1950s that was clearly inadequate, and the development corporation began a programme of garage building. It had 2,568 lock-up garages by 1960; of those 678 had been built in the previous year. (fn. 69) By 1962 more than one house in four had a garage available, (fn. 70) and by 1970 there were 5,109, accounting for 41 per cent of houses, compared with 47 to 57 per cent in other new towns. (fn. 71) Garage building continued, though more slowly, in the 1970s; by 1976 the Commission for the New Towns had completed a further 1,251. (fn. 72) There were still long waiting lists for garages in the early 1980s. (fn. 73)