Shopkeepers strongly oppose Market St mall

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 09:49 16/01/2013
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Blenheim shopkeepers vigorously vetoed the idea of converting Blenheim's Market St into a pedestrian mall at a CBD retailers meeting last night.

But Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman encouraged further discussion about revitalising the centre and asked for more ideas to attract people back into town.

The idea was discussed after an online poll by the Marlborough Express showed overwhelming community support for the closure of Market St to vehicles and its recreation as a pedestrian mall.

In total, 528 voters (87.1 per cent) were in favour of the move, while 118 (18.3 per cent) were against.

About 30 Blenheim retailers and councillors attended the meeting last night, and although most shopkeepers appeared to oppose the idea, Mr Sowman thought the online poll results were very telling.

"If not a mall then what? We've got 80 per cent of people here telling us they want improvement," he said.

"I think this is a good way to flesh out ideas about what we can do to encourage more people into town."

Blenheim Bookworld owner Charlene Scott strongly opposed the pedestrian mall, arguing the town needed to be easily accessible and convenient for people.

Otherwise the free parking and convenience offered at retail developments in Redwoodtown and Westwood would draw people away from town, she said.

"If there's not parking and easy access, town will die," she said.

Thomas's owner Hamish Thomas said the concept of a pedestrian mall had been bought up several times in the past and abandoned because of lack of adequate support from the retail community.

"We have a town plan produced after extensive consultation with town planners, retailers and the public that doesn't include a pedestrian mall," Mr Thomas said.

"That was in 2009, we want to see progress . . . just get on with it."

Former Blenheim retailer Ted Laws thought nothing could be achieved by converting Market St into a mall: "If you want to compete with a mall, you have to be like a mall and offer free parking as well, and that cost would be too inhibitive for Blenheim."

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- The Marlborough Express

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