Peterhead residents believe a range of initiatives can regenerate the town centre, according to a comprehensive report.
The results of the Peterhead Town Centre survey, conducted earlier this year, show that although people are visiting the town centre less there is an appetite for development
Popular proposals include a crackdown on street drinking, more brand-name shops and free parking in the area.
Of the 2,004 repsondents, 60 percent visit the town centre less than they did a couple of years ago.
Only five percent say they now visit more.
The survey, the results of which have been compiled for Buchan Local Community Planning Group by consultancy firm IBP Strategy & Research, reached out to 10,000 households in the town in an effort to make Peterhead a thriving area of innovation and culture.
An action plan will now be drawn up to restore pride in the area.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Buchan area manager Chris White said: “Our preconception was that the position of Peterhead in terms of trading is not as strong as we would wish, but actually better than many other Scottish town’s of a similar size
“What we feared is that much of the available spend, particularly from the more mobile and affluent areas on the edges of the town and surrounding villages leaks out to better quality supermarkets, to Aberdeen for comparison goods and increasingly to the internet.”
He said the council recognise that towns like Inverurie have begun to cater for more affluent households by investing in better quality facilities and customer care.
More than one third of respondents to April’s Town Centre Survey believe the biggest single improvement that could be made is to bring in a better range of shops and cull the number of charity shops.
In particular there were big calls for a Peterhead branch of Marks and Spencer - when asked which shops they would like in the town, 56 percent of people named the clothing and luxury food store.
Other popular choices were clothing stores Primark and Next.
Mr White said: “Not one we shout about, but this has been underway for some time.
“The problem is that we have had assurances, for instance from Morrisons and Asda, that fresh investment was imminent only to see board decisions change. ALDI is a good example also.
“M&S have been approached by a private sector contact over several years but we do not seem to be able to entice them here.
“Despite low unemployment and high levels of disposable income in much of the town we seem collectively to be unable to convince Aberdeen based developers that there is a sufficient local prestige market.
“Yet this is Aberdeenshire’s second highest catchment behind Inverurie in terms of spend and willing-to-travel population.”
The next step is to draw up an action plan with further consultation with Peterhead residents.
HRI Architects are working with Yellowbook, Night Wright Planning and Rydens and a town summit will be held on Wednesday, Novermber 27, to give the public the chance to influence the action plan.
Mr White hopes the plan will be ready by Christmas.
He said: “This will not be a magic formula, but more likely to be a series of projects which the public, private and voluntary sectors can discuss and see how they could be developed.”
Also included in the survey were questions about the development of Catto Park as a centre for sporting excellence.
The principle of the proposal proved sound - 71% said it is very or quite important for community and sporting facilities to be housed at a single site - however there were concerns about the role of Peterhead Football Club.
A vocal minority of respondents spoke out against the role of the club who have spearheaded the project.
One wrote: “Catto Park belongs to the people of Peterhead and has nothing to do with P.F.C. They have no right to try and take it over for a sporting development.”
Another noted: “Catto Park was gifted to the town and any plans should not incorporate any admission fees for future use - it should be totally non-profit making.”
However these views proved to be in the minority and there is strong support for a facility which accomodates a sports hall, dance and fitness studio and indoor and outdoor synthetic pitches to be used in the winter.
The findings tally with those of a consultation carried out by PMR Leisure for the club.
A working group made up of Chris White, senior officials from Peterhead FC, the head teacher of Peterhead Academy and local sporting and community leaders is now overseeing the project.