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News Release


The changing face of Exeter 1990-2015

​Charles Kislingbury gives personal reflection of city’s property landscape has changed

The JLL Exeter office opened in the city on 1 January 1990 and lead director Charles Kislingbury has been at the helm throughout.

Here, he gives a personal reflection of how Exeter and its property landscape have changed over the last 25 years.

"Today, Exeter is flourishing, though it still faces a whole set of challenges - many of which are in stark contrast to the challenges of 25 years ago - that it must overcome to continue to prosper.

Charles Kislingbury"As a result of strong leadership and a commitment to the growth agenda, the city can point to any number of significant success stories that sees it riding high in many of the UK rankings. Indeed with the arrival of the Met Office’s supercomputer and the burgeoning reputation of the University of Exeter, the city is truly attracting global recognition.

"Compare this with 1990 and our arrival in Exeter.

"Trading on an over confidence borne on the back of the late 1980s property boom, speculative development of a range of business units had happened with the expectation that market demand remained unsatisfied. City leaders were convinced this confidence would continue for many years to come, but little did they know that the early 1990s would prove some of the most difficult years in the UK property market.

"JLL’s Exeter office was launched as a result of the Exeter Business Park which became our first instruction; it was seen then as a vanguard statement that Exeter was open for business. Acquired and promoted by the now defunct Exeter Building Company (EBC), the scheme had planning consent for 440,000 sq ft of mixed employment use. It would prove a long journey.

"In the space of nine short months, this optimism was swept away by the stark reality that the good times were over and many businesses and property projects were now exposed to an over confidence that would see them fail. The rapidly slowing housing market and increasing default on commercial loans saw the banks and other financiers calling time on many lending opportunities, meaning we rapidly entered a period of market correction that would run for the next five years.

"In my view - and of course with the benefit of hindsight - this was actually the making of Exeter as it forced many of the amateurs out of the market leaving the future in the hands of experts.

"It saw the emergence of a strong and collegiate executive leadership who, over the last 15 years, have positively encouraged private sector investment and relentlessly pursued the public sector initiative. This has seen the delivery of major projects that the city will be continue to be proud of over the next 25 years.

"In my opinion, securing the Met Office has to be a stand out achievement for the city. Without it, perhaps the likes of Princesshay and the improvements to J29 which have  allowed the delivery of Cranbroook, may not have happened. Add to this the emergence of the University of Exeter as a UK top 10 university and a global top 20 and we certainly have a city to be proud of.

"Exeter Business Park, The Matford Centre and Skypark have transformed the dated employment offer of the old Sowton and Marsh Barton Industrial Estates. Pynes Hill and Woodwater Park today provide the professional community with a very comfortable out-of-town business location.

"The biggest change in town has been the return of city centre living and the transformation of the retail and leisure offer. Today the choice of eating, shopping and relaxing bears no comparison with 25 years ago.

"Combining the old with the new is something Exeter seems to have got right time and time again over the last 25 years. Continuing to get it right over the next 25 years is the next challenge."