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Exeter – A city looking to its future

The city of Exeter is flourishing but, as it grows, there are inevitable pressures being placed on its infrastructure. Charles Kislingbury, head of JLL’s Exeter office, explores how the city can meet these challenges so that it continues to be a place where people enjoy living, working and visiting.

Charles KislingburyExeter has experienced a sustain period of growth and expansion in recent years. This continued success clearly presents fantastic opportunities but it is now putting pressure on the current economic and administrative boundaries.

The transient and significant student community already sees the resident population swell to nearly 150,000 during term time so, in my opinion, it is not unrealistic to start planning now for a city with a population of 200,000 people. For a city of this size to be successful, the right physical and administrative infrastructure needs to be in place.

New administrative boundaries will be required to reflect the economic boundaries of greater Exeter and the Government’s devolution agenda offers a real opportunity to places like Exeter not least because we will have the chance to vote for a mayor for this wider area. I believe this would help accelerate and focus the necessary change that will be required while providing a single point of accountability and a clearer decision making process.

It is essential that people are able to move easily and pleasurably around Exeter as well as into and out of our city. Providing a physical infrastructure that delivers this will be key. It is not unrealistic to see a form of Park & Rail complementing the present Park & Ride. Investment in new metro style rolling stock which could utilise the existing seven rail lines into the city would be very sustainable. It would result in minimal disruption capitalising on the investment in the new rail stops that have recently opened – the latest being at Cranbrook.

Connecting our key peripheral economic and residential settlements will also be an important part of the city’s future success. An Exeter Orbital linking the Science Park with the Airport and Westpoint will deliver an essential physical connection that will accelerate the already burgeoning global credentials which the Met Office and University have brought to the city. In time, it is easy to see Exeter hosting a global conference on Environmental Science and Climate Change.

Alongside its environmental strengths, Exeter is also carving a niche out for itself in the digital tech industries. A national report, Tech Nation 2016, published earlier this month by Tech City UK and Nesta shows that the digital tech industries are central to Exeter’s economy. Between 2010 and 2014, Exeter’s employment in this sector grew by 161 per cent with access to talent and support for digital tech businesses contributing to this success. We need to capitalise on this by ensuring the city is providing the right spaces where businesses can collaborate and thrive. We have this already at Exeter Science Park and The Generator but more tech-style space is needed to grow this sector.

The next five years are set to be a time of great change for Exeter. Some bold decisions are needed to turn what is currently informed ambition into a reality. It is in the hands of the people who live and work here to make this happen.

JLL is an international property consultancy. Its Exeter team combines local in-depth knowledge with national and global property expertise to advise on all aspects of the commercial property market.