THERE will be people who will say that the departure of Next is the latest hammer blow to the future of Winchester as a shopping destination.
The High Street is doomed, everyone is going to WestQuay and Festival Place and anyway, internet shopping will kill off all the shops, they predict, smugly.
It is a load of rubbish. The High Street is far more resilient than the doom mongers say. Similar know-alls have been predicting the end of newspapers for even longer. We are still here, and along with the High Street, will still be here for many years to come.
The reason why can be found in the Wonderful Winchester supplement inside this paper today. People are interested in this city and want to be here. Where people like congregating then shops and business will also want to be.
But there is a more insidious and serious threat to Winchester city centre as a whole. Next is departing a few months after planning permission was granted to convert the top two floors of its building into flats, taking the upper floor of its retail space. That undermines the mixed and balanced economy of Winchester. Shops like Next come and go but the change of use to residential is a kind of cancer.
An office in Chesil Street is the latest subject of conversion. The city council has taken action to make it harder but its new powers do not go far enough.