TWO businesses could be set to open in Winchester as a plan to split a prominent empty unit in half has been approved.

Next in High Street closed in 2017 and since then a number of applications have been lodged to transform the ground floor premises, with none coming to fruition.

London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund sought permission to create a hotel on the upper floors, with Travelodge opening in 2019.

The ground floor has remained empty and now Winchester City Council has granted permission for the unit to be divided into two.

The latest application has said that the “landlord now has interest from two prospective tenants”.

The units are expected to be used for the sale of food and drink for consumption mostly on the premises, and for indoor sport, recreation or fitness.

A group of restaurateurs, Tas Food Ltd, were previously given permission to site extraction equipment to a roof plant area of the store.

Companies House lists the applicants as take-away food shops and mobile food stands.

Loungers, which runs the Cosy Club and Lounges chains, was given permission to convert the former Next shop in August 2020, but then the Covid pandemic struck, and no work has taken place.

The unit has already been given the go-ahead to be converted into a café/restaurant from retail when Loungers applied to Winchester City Council.