About five years ago I carried out an analysis of the changes in retail, eating out, on-line purchase, services and more - and how they were changing.

The pandemic has simply accelerated that process.

In Dorchester most of the retail outlets that have closed, or are, closing have a common theme. They are chain stores, with multiple outlets and most of their products can be obtained online.

Margins are low, overheads are high (rents and business rates), and the holding company has a tricky task in keeping the balance sheet positive. It takes little to upset the apple cart.

So, the town is left with large gaps which in some cases were once housing or are buildings put up in the 1950s and 1960s, so have no historic value.

What the town needs, according to the statistics, is accommodation. So, the simple answer is to convert the buildings to flats, or even houses and that has several benefits in addition to accommodation.

Ideally one could envisage a few ex-retail outlets being combined to achieve this.

The residents would spend money in town, on food, and local suppliers including cafés and restaurants, the fine Plaza cinema and so on. People wouldn’t necessarily need a car, especially if the bus network were efficient.

The town would slowly become a community and regenerate much of the truly local trade. The accommodation could be used by younger people either as singles or new couples, before moving on later in life, and some might be used for the elderly. Local and privately owned businesses would benefit as a result.

I know it is difficult to execute such a programme, but if it were easy it would be done. I remember once asking a former mayor what her thoughts were, and she said it was impossible!

So, what is going to rejuvenate the town? Not chain stores: their days have been numbered for quite a time. Not just more museums or places of history. The town needs life and that means people. It needs imagination – so who has the ability and drive to see beyond the next local election?

Peter JW Noble

Haylands Close, Dorchester