Background and economy: Exeter has a population around 129,000, although the official travel to work area comprises 470,000. The city population has grown briskly by 12,000 since 2011, and ONS figures suggest it will exceed 138,000 by 2029. Centre for Cities figures record that in 2015-16 Exeter had the second fastest rate of population growth (2%) in the UK, second only to Coventry.
The city lacks any heavy industry and its economy is heavily orientated towards services and newer industries. Key employers are public services, health, education, retail and distribution, research and development and knowledge-related industries. Exeter has a significant tech. sector for its size which provides 14,000 jobs, according to Tech Nation 2017. The employment rate here is also one of the highest in the UK (Centre for Cities figures).
According to EY’s ‘UK Regional Economic Forecast’ Exeter will be amongst the top 11 fastest growing city economies in the UK over the next two years. They forecast annual GVA growth of 2.3% compared to a national average of 1.8% and London at 2.2%.
Infrastructure: Exeter benefits from a strategic position on the M5 motorway, A38 and A30 roads. The city itself suffers considerable traffic congestion and as such much new development tends to be located around the main motorway junctions.
In an attempt to improve suburban rail transport, new stations opened at Newcourt and at Cranbrook in 2015. A new station is proposed for Marsh Barton where the existing business park provides around 6,000 jobs. There are proposals to reopen the line to Okehampton for passenger services and trial a commuter service on the route.
Exeter Airport has fairly limited services (less than 1m passengers annually) but the surrounding area is a focus for development.
Development and regeneration: The Exeter area has seen significant development over the last decade or so and more is underway or planned. Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone consists of four sites – Exeter Science Park, Skypark, Exeter Airport Business Park and Cranbrook. Exeter Science Park is a partnership between local authorities and the University of Exeter. It opened in 2015 with the aim of attracting businesses in science and technology and the Met Office is a high profile occupier. Further expansion is underway and the park should eventually employ 3,000 people.