STATION Approach has been a troubled project since its conception in 2017.

But the Winchester Business Strategy Group, which is part of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, believes it is crucial for the city.

Chairman Mark Mills-Goodlet addressed the group's annual general meeting on September 4.

He said: "The Winchester BSG is extremely fortunate to have representation from Winchester City Council which allows us to be continually updated on any Station Approach developments via their updates given at our Business Strategy Group Meetings and correspondence via email.

"We also work closely with the Winchester BID, in particular its Executive Director Dr Paul Spencer. This close collaboration gives us a united voice for business within Winchester.

"As we are all aware the Station Approach development has been shelved for six to 18 months due to the issues with the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic so it is our intention to demonstrate the requirement for such a development when the council revisits the project.

"The Station Approach Policy Paper will be crucial in persuading the council to move forward and we must be able to demonstrate a requirement for Grade A office space in the city."

The question now is: how will the coronavirus crisis impact Station Approach?

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has asked real estate company Savills, one of its members, to analyse the situation.

The scheme is set to provide modern office spaces in the area near Winchester train station.

A spokesperson for Savills said: "The Covid-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have an impact on the office market however, we are of the opinion that this will largely be in terms of design and not necessarily size requirements.

"Different occupiers in different sectors will find different solutions but the 'death of the office' idea, that has been popular in the media, was both a knee jerk reaction and over-stated.

"Working from home (WFH) has worked better for some than others but when people say that they have been able to do their work without any issues, they generally mean that work that it was still possible to do under lockdown conditions, not necessarily all their usual work.

"WFH has been for, what is still, a short period, during mainly warm and sunny weather. We are of the opinion that the reaction to it would have been very different had it been during the winter months."

There are also concerns for staff mental health whilst they are isolated at home.

Savills believes this will create a demand for office space.

"Office design had already been changing to a more collaborative and social workspace, particularly in the managed workspace sector and we see this continuing and becoming a focus of non-serviced space," the spokesperson added.

"Occupiers may well reduce desk capacity but will also reduce occupational densities, providing more space per desk. As such, whilst some occupiers will reduce space, others may well increase.

"With regard to Station Approach, the scale of offices included in the scheme, suggests that there was already an expectation of attracting occupiers from outside the city, possibly from London.

"In our opinion, this is probably more likely as a result of the pandemic than it was previously."