THE idea that a new health centre could help transform the fortunes of our ailing city centre is a very exciting one.

The whole reason that our high streets have been suffering for years is market forces and, much as governments have desperately wanted to help, while we live in a free market economy they cannot control market forces.

Now we see a new idea: take those public services that governments do control, and stick them right in the empty space where the vanishing shoppers used to be.

Instantly you draw thousands of people on a regular basis into the commercial heart of the city and close to the shops which so desperately need more customers.

Of course, one health centre in the middle of Oxford is not going to turn the tide overnight, but the idea that it represents is a powerful one.

Plenty of government agencies use out-of-town office space as, increasingly, do councils.

As landlords of town centre property increasingly find themselves with empty units on theirs hands, diversification is the only way to go.

As always, it seems, Oxford is leading the way.