This is how many vacant units there are in Crawley town centre - but BID manager says 'watch this space'

The Covid pandemic has cost many places in the South East - including Crawley - more than half a year’s worth of high street sales, according to a new report.

The report by Cities Outlook 2022 – Centre for Cities’ annual economic assessment of the UK’s largest urban areas - says Crawley lost 28 weeks worth of potential takings, making it the seventh most hit in the South East and 33rd nationally.

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The report also showed Crawley ranked 5th in the South East (41st nationally) percentage of town centre units were vacant (14.9%).

14.9% of Crawley's town centre units are vacant

Nationally, Covid-19 has cost businesses in city and large town centres more than a third (35%) of their potential takings since March 2020, with central London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff worst affected.

In prosperous city centres, lost sales are linked to an increase in business closures. In Oxford city centre the number of empty storefronts increased by around 8.4 percentage points as sales fell – the highest increase in the country.

Across the 52 city and town centres studied, 2426 commercial units have become vacant during the pandemic, against 1374 between 2018 and 2020. Crawley's vacancy rate rose 2.7% in that time period.

But Crawley Town Centre BID manager Wendy Bell believes we will start seeing the empty units being filled in the coming months.

Wendy also praised the resilience of the businesses based in the town centre.

She said: "As one of the towns that suffered the most economically due to the pandemic it is very encouraging to see how resilient the businesses based in Crawley Town Centre are.

"Despite difficult trading conditions over the last two years and whilst we are not yet where we want to be, we are certainly seeing an increase in new businesses taking up vacant units and with more on the horizon the future is looking far more promising than expected.

"Watch this space, Someone will be moving in shortly!"

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “While the pandemic has been a tough time for all high streets it has levelled down more prosperous cities and towns in the South East. Despite this, the strength of their wider local economies means they are well placed to recover quickly from the past two years.”

“The bigger concern is for economically weaker places – primarily in the North and Midlands – where Covid-19 has actually paused their long-term decline. To help them avoid a wave of high street closures this year the Government must set out how it plans to increase peoples’ skills and pay to give them the income needed to sustain a thriving high street. Many of these places are in the so-called Red Wall so there is a political imperative for the Government to act fast, as well as an economic one.”