SIR: Last time the Chronicle reported that the BID/Chamber of Commerce/Winchester City Council (they are all interchangeable for these purposes) insisted that the development of Station Approach should go ahead regardless of pandemics, looming economic collapse or anything else, I resisted the temptation to write "they would say that, wouldn't they".

This time, though, as all the proponents insist the scheme is still "crucial" (Station Approach is still "crucial", p. 2, September 19), the report coincides with another report by the thinktank Centre for Cities. This finds that the number of people returning to their offices has flatlined for the last three months, despite the government's not-so-subtle threats to drive them back. Smaller towns, probably including Winchester, have done better than larger cities, but footfall remains at less than half normal levels in such places.

The big tech companies are telling their staff not to return to the office for the forseeable future, as is the Bank of England. Locally, more shops and restaurants are failing to reopen. Do we really need more commercial space around the station?

The scheme that was given outline planning consent (before that was quashed) relied on rents of £35 a square foot, about £10 more than the top rates elsewhere in the city. Now Covid-safe guidelines mean only about a third as many people can occupy a given space. That suggests rents would have to be over £100.

If a developer were to take a gamble, and bet on sufficient income by building three times as much space, imagine the outcry at the size of that monolith. Not to mention the difficulty of shared lifts. How wide would the staircases and corridors have to be for social distancing?

House sales have increased due to several months' pent-up business, and as people move from London (to work from their new homes), but landowners of commercial buildings are being squeezed, with tenants asking for rent reductions to cope with loss of business.

Is it really good advice, to embark on speculative office development at this time?

Judith Martin,

Romsey Road,