CRAWLEY’S MP and the leader of the borough council have appealed to the Government for help to stop 70 years of the town’s economic success being wiped out.

With the aviation industry taking a huge hit due to the Covid-19 lockdown – and a report forecasting 57 per cent of jobs in the town were at risk – Henry Smith and Peter Lamb set aside their political differences to write a heartfelt plea to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others.

The letter said: “We must ensure Crawley’s economic success, built up over many decades, is not lost in a matter of weeks. It is critical that as many of Crawley’s residents as possible are able to retain their jobs and livelihoods – this will not happen without a major programme of Government intervention to mitigate the worst effects of this crisis.”

An economic crisis in Crawley would spread ripples throughout the county. The town’s economy grew 23 per cent from 2013 to 2020, providing 26 per cent of the economic output in West Sussex, despite representing a tiny two per cent of the land. Over the same period, it had the second highest job density outside central London, with jobs growth rising 13.5 per cent to 101,000.

Cripple that and the county would face sizeable problems.

In their letter, Mr Smith and Mr Lamb laid out a ten-point programme needed to rebuild the town’s economy.

It included: a major programme of investment in infrastructure; business relief and support for Gatwick Airport and firms run on the site; grants to local businesses to enable them to retain staff; and an improved benefits system to recognise the high cost of living in the area.

They also asked for targeted support and relief for high street and retail businesses to help them adapt to the post-crisis economy.

Mr Lamb said: “Crawley generates £124 million of business rates each year for the Government from its local business community.

“A massive economic downturn in Crawley will prove very costly to public finances.

“We’ve been helping the public purse for decades – it’s now time for the Government to repay that help.

“We stand ready and willing to work with the Government, business and stakeholders on a programme of investment and business relief aid to help rescue Crawley’s economy, preserve as many jobs for our residents as possible and provide desperately-needed support for our business community.”

Mr Smith added: “The Crawley and Gatwick economy has been an undoubted success story for many years but the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to negatively impact the area perhaps more than any other UK-wide.

“Key aviation and travel sectors were first to take an immediate hit and will likely be the slowest to recover in confidence.

“I welcome the swift, unprecedented and significant package of measures taken by government in providing support to people and businesses nationwide, but it is clear that there is particular, extra action that needs to be taken in support of Crawley’s uniquely adversely affected community.”