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Economically, the town has developed into the main centre of industry and employment between London and the south coast.
Its large industrial area supports manufacturing and service companies, many of them connected with the airport.
A master plan was developed for the establishment of new residential, commercial, industrial and civic areas, and rapid development greatly increased the size and population of the town over a few decades.
Crawley grew slowly in importance over the next few centuries, but was boosted in the 18th century by the construction of the turnpike road between London and Brighton.The Longley company—one of South East England's largest building firms in the late 19th century, responsible for buildings including Christ's Hospital school and the King Edward VII Sanatorium in Midhurst—moved to a site next to Crawley station in 1881.There was a major expansion in house building in the late 19th century.After the Second World War, the British Government planned to move large numbers of people and jobs out of London and into new towns around South East England.The New Towns Act 1946 designated Crawley as the site of one of these.