FIRST and foremost, the loss of Debenhams is a terrible shame for the people who worked there.

Even though the store chain’s woes are hardly news, many staff and customers were convinced our branch was doing well enough to survive. Turns out it wasn’t that simple.

I confess I rarely shopped there. It didn’t sell a lot that appealed to me. But unless another occupier moves in pronto, its closure will affect all of us.

The store itself is such a substantial, central presence that the whole Market Place area could quickly start to feel down-at-heel, and that’s the last thing Salisbury needs as it battles back from the Novichok disaster amid a national decline in traditional retail.

Some commentators on the Journal’s website and Facebook page have lambasted the supposedly “greedy” landlords, asking why they couldn’t help with a rent reduction.

The building was bought for £5.4million in 2009 by Smith Bradbeer, the family firm who own Bradbeers department stores in Romsey and New Milton and a furniture store at Hedge End.

I wonder whether it was just an investment, or whether they had half an eye on it for their own long-term use. I like the Romsey store. It has character. I think they’d suit Salisbury.

From the Land Registry record it seems there’s a mortgage on the site with Lloyd’s Bank, so perhaps they weren’t in a position to be more generous to their tenants.

Anyway, while we don’t know, no-one should be chucking blame around.

Now then. Why can’t we have Primark? That old chestnut.

Answer: Because they don’t want to come here.

Indeed, they’re not keen to open many more stores anywhere.

And they’ve been badly hit by the lack of an internet outlet as the lockdown drives customers online.

It’s also leaving millions of people with less, if any, disposable income. I doubt that fast fashion, with its reliance on impulse buys, is the future. There are plenty of other national chains lumbered with big debts already.

So who will take on this Grade II listed building with its resident ghosts, one of them rumoured to be the Duke of Buckingham, who was beheaded outside the inn that stood on the site in 1483?

Turn it into flats, you say? Certainly more desirable than carving up more countryside. But I’m told it won’t be easy to reconfigure internally.

And as I keep asking, where will the occupants of all these new homes earn a living? I don’t believe that as a nation we can house-build our way out of trouble unless we create a great many more proper jobs.

Another, related question – possibly even more uncomfortable.

What does the Covid-19 downturn presage for Wiltshire Council’s Maltings redevelopment?

Who’ll be in a position to take on premises in a smart new shopping arcade?

Might it make sense to leave the library where it already works perfectly well, and go back to the drawing board – again?

You know, I feel some sympathy for our unitary leaders, grappling already with the prospect of being £40million out of pocket.