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Aviation’s woes hit Crawley hard

The effect of a depressed aviation sector has been keenly felt in Crawley. But changes to the working environment may reinvigorate it, says IFA member David Fisher.

Aviation’s woes hit Crawley hard
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Tell us about your role and responsibilities

I’m the finance director to a Zambian aircraft ground and freight handling company, NAC2000 Corporation, and formerly I’ve been the FD to a number of airlines. While I don’t run a practice like many members, I do provide a lot of business mentoring and support – for love rather than money.

For my own professional development, I got involved in setting up the Crawley branch of the IFA, and am its ambassador. I spend most of my time in the UK – that’s certainly the case for the last 15 months since Covid-19.

What’s the current business and economic environment like in Crawley?

Some businesses are managing to get through the pandemic, but the area has been hit by the aviation sector’s problems. Gatwick Airport is still down 85% on passenger numbers, which has a massive impact on the local community and economy. I have friends and colleagues around here who are struggling. Furloughing still costs a business money, and I’m aware of businesses liquidating and hoping to restart when things improve in the future.

I think it will take the aviation sector up to four years to recover at this point in time, because we need large-scale vaccination across the globe, not just in pockets – otherwise free travel isn’t feasible.

There are green shoots in other parts of the local economy. With staff shortages due to a lack of foreign temporary workers I think the UK workforce will have to step up, and these employers may be forced to improve remuneration if these roles are longer-term.

How does the IFA work with business, people and the community in Crawley?

We had been busy, but then the pandemic hit. The branch is due re-energising. We have our first virtual meeting on 14 September and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s important for the IFA to do this, and more, to truly serve its members.

CRAWLEY AND WEST SUSSEX

As the home of the world’s second-busiest single-runway airport, the current travails of the aviation sector loom large over the area. At the end of June, Gatwick joined other industry representatives as part of the Travel Day of Action – an initiative to lobby the UK government to reopen travel and provide further support.

It joined the Airport Operators Association, Airlines UK and ABTA, among others, calling for financial support and the lifting of travel restrictions.

“Gatwick has been a major driver for the local and regional economy for several decades, as well as supporting the wider UK economy during that time,” stated Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate. “The whole industry requires more tailored financial backing from government if we are to rebuild successfully and ensure the UK remains a significant global player with outstanding connections to major worldwide economies.”

  • A £70m scheme to redevelop Crawley Station and Overline House has been signed off by Crawley Borough Council. The work includes the build of some 300 flats – which includes three new residential blocks. The agreement also unlocks £7m in public funding via the Crawley Growth Programme and the Crawley Towns Fund to upgrade and modernise the local bus station and surrounding public realm.
  • Eleven new stores are planned for West Sussex by the UK’s fifth-largest supermarket. Aldi is looking for freehold town centre or edge-of-centre sites – including Burgess Hill, Crawley and Haywards Heath, reports the West Sussex County Times.
  • Muse Developments has been appointed to lead the works for Horsham Enterprise Park’s development. The work will create up to 300 new homes and 25,000 sq m of new employment space.

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