Shoppers still keen on CBD mall

A pedestrian mall for Market St was the top issue for people surveyed as part of a "town health check".

The survey, carried out for the Marlborough District Council in Blenheim for the second time in three years and in Picton for the first time, showed that both towns were "healthy", a report to the council's regional development and planning committee said.

The survey was carried out by student Chrissie Bright for the council, and involved asking people on the street about their experiences in the central business districts of Blenheim and Picton during business hours.

Since the first survey of Blenheim, there had been a shift which had seen more large national retailers opening in the town, Ms Bright said.

Busier areas were getting busier, and quieter parts of town were becoming quieter, she said.

The busiest part of town was the south end of Market St, and the quietest at the northern end of Market St and High St by the river.

The most commonly suggested improvement was a pedestrian space along Market St, Ms Bright said.

"This came up in the 2011 survey as well," she said.

"It is still a topic of concern for pedestrians . . . they liked it for safety, no pollution, more opportunities for entertainment in the town centre, and market stalls.

"People would love to see it [a pedestrian mall] happen, but recognised it had been on the cards for a very long time.

"I understand from discussions within council that retailers don't like it and don't support it."

Another issue were the large blank walls of some big retailers, she said.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said some retailers had a policy to keep their walls blank, however the town had worked hard to ensure any new retailer in the main shopping area on Market St had windows, not just painted walls.

Ms Bright said overall people did not spend long in town.

People working in Blenheim spent three or more hours in the central business district and shoppers spent one to two hours, with most visiting weekly.

"When they come in, they try to fulfil all their tasks in as little time as possible."

Blenheim was seen as clean, attractive, and uncluttered, and overall the picture of the town was positive and most approved.

Picton was also viewed positively, Ms Bright said, but an upgrade was needed around the Mariners' Mall area and there was concern about empty shops.

The foreshore area was seen as the most attractive part of the town, and rated well for its vitality and provision for visitors.

However, the survey said it might not be as well-suited for locals, with limited shopping opportunities.

Because of its size, there would not be a big range of shops, and many people did their non-food shopping in Blenheim.

"Picton is a town within a unique setting where you can live, indulge, and relax, possessing many qualities appreciated by residents and visitors," Ms Bright said.

"In future, the current issues that Picton faces will push for development to occur, offering opportunities to improve Picton's health as time progresses."

The Marlborough Express