Councillors debate ways to lift activity

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 16:00 28/11/2012

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Revitalising central Blenheim was hotly debated by a Marlborough District Council committee yesterday, with some councillors against spending extra money on unnecessary projects.

However, they agreed to commission experts to review the town centre strategy projects and advise the council how to get support and enthusiasm from private property owners.

The report will also identify the best way to manage revitalising the Blenheim town centre, including setting up a small working group.

The Urbanism Plus town centre strategy was completed in 2009 after consulting the public, business owners and community groups. It included projects such as the tree planting in Seymour St this year and the partly finished pocket park in Queen St.

However, the council has reviewed the projects because of the economic downturn.

Cr Geoff Evans told the community and financial planning committee yesterday a collaborative approach was crucial to revitalising central Blenheim.

The private sector had to be included in the planning if the council wanted their support.

"They should be the ones driving this and if we can help, we will."

Cr David Oddie said with the increase of big-box retail stores changing the face of central Blenheim, it was important to consider how the town might change.

"We need to address the continuing slide of retail stores to the commercial sites away from the town centre," he said.

"Town is evolving and we need to understand how it's changing so we can plan for the next 10, 15, 30 years."

Cr Jamie Arbuckle strongly disagreed with spending more on new projects in central Blenheim.

"I personally believe we don't have the money available to splash out on a whole lot of new projects," he said.

"We need to look at things such as offering free parking to encourage people into the CBD."

Cr John Leggett said shifting the decision-making to a smaller group of people was the wrong thing to do because town planning should involve everyone.

Mayor Alistair Sowman said the role of the governance group would be to analyse how best to get the private sector on board, and it would have no more power than consulting groups.

Cr Jenny Andrews said free parking was one way of encouraging people to shop in town, but she welcomed a "fresh outlook" from experts if it did not cost too much.

"We've been trying to do something to make retailers more cohesive since 1985 and we might need someone to tell us what to do," she said.

"We need to sharpen up and encourage people into town."

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- The Marlborough Express

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