Craig Taylor of Taylors We Love Shoes and Renee Wilson from Palm Boutique are wanting to see positive changes in the city centre. Photo: Kate Russell.

Backlash over stalled city plan

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A city centre retailer says it is “disappointing” that plans to reinvigorate Nelson’s CBD have been stalled after other business owners challenged moves to reduce car parking.

Renee Wilson of Palm Boutique has spoken up on her desire for Nelson City Council to make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

This follows council’s recent decision to vote against a proposal to implement a ‘hybrid’ trial which would see elements of their original four options for Trafalgar, Bridge and Hardy Sts come together – along with $900,000 in funding from central government.

These included closing Trafalgar St to vehicles, two footpath widening options or doing nothing.

Council sought public feedback with 43 per cent of respondents in favour of keeping the status quo and 39 per cent in favour of pedestrianising Trafalgar St.

“You could take out the carpark outside my shop and put a couple of park benches there, that’s not a problem,” says Renee.

“It would be great to see some updates and creative changes within the city centre to give it a new lease of life and encourage people to dwell and stay a little longer.”

Renee was part of a taskforce made up of various inner-city retailers who were shoulder-tapped by council staff to give them insight.

She says she backed the hybrid option.

“From my perspective, the changes were essentially temporary in nature and something to trial with funding from central government – a real bonus. I think it’s a real shame that opportunity has been lost. It’s a no brainer in my mind.”

She says it has been disappointing to see the “negative reactions and narrative” around the proposed changes and council-led consultation after a letter from the Nelson City Business Group was sent to Nelson’s mayor and councillors stating they were “implacably opposed” to changes that reduced car parking.

“If council fail to heed our concerns, we will take legal action,” the letter stated.

“There’ve been people who’ve had extreme feelings towards the situation. They don’t speak for everyone,” says Renee.

“The proposed changes would have affected limited carparking spaces – the new pay-by-plate system is controlling the occupancy issues we’ve had.”

She said that the council’s consultation with retailers had been “extremely good”.

“That’s the thing I’ve been a bit upset about, for probably one of the first times that I’ve noticed, the council has been extremely collaborative, and the response of some other retailers has been anti-collaboration.”

Another member of the taskforce was Craig Taylor, who has owned Taylors We Love Shoes on Trafalgar St for 27 years.

He says he is “fully supportive” of a review of Nelson’s streetscape – if it’s done at the right pace.

“Unquestionably, change has to happen – I think it’s long overdue. The city is looking tired and it really does need an upgrade. There are a group of us who are very supportive of the need to have that happen.”

He stresses that the views being expressed within the city are not just of retailers but of business and building owners.

“It’s certainly not just a retailer’s movement here.”

Craig says it’s important any work doesn’t happen in a “kneejerk” approach.

“It’s such an important thing to happen in Nelson. It needs to happen properly so we end up with a really good result. It needs to be done thoroughly and with appropriate consultation with stakeholders, so we are all working towards a sensible and positive end result.”

Craig says, with a store in Richmond, they’ve been through the process of the Queen St upgrade.

“It’s pretty fair to say that ended up being a really good result. It is a nice shopping environment, it’s modern, it’s effective, functional, and it’s Nelson’s turn now to bring itself up to scratch.”