Exeter is the capital city of Devon and is home to some of the region’s biggest employers. It is dominated by professional services, law and financial firms and thanks to the Met Office, has the largest number of meteorologists and climate change specialists in the UK.
And in recent years, it is making a name for itself as a tech start-up capital with innovative businesses making the most of support from the University and science cluster. It has been hailed for the work-life balance it offers thanks to beaches and Dartmoor on its doorstep.
The city has a population at 128,900, based on the latest economic figures, which are pre-pandemic (2019).
The city’s wider area includes parts of East Devon, Teignbridge, and Mid Devon. Of these 470,000 residents, 288,100 are of working age and just under 241,300 are employed.
Well over half the workforce is well qualified, substantially higher than the national average.
Approximately 35,000 people commute into Exeter on a daily basis.
Which firms are already based there?
Some of the region’s biggest employers are based in the city, including Devon and Cornwall’s only FTSE company, Pennon Group, with 1,987 employees.
Housing Association LiveWest has offices at Skypark, employing a total of 1,400 people across the wider South West region.
Legal and professional services and accountancy firms are well represented with PKF Francis Clark, Foot Anstey, Ashfords and Michelmores all based in the city.
The University of Exeter and the Met Office are both seen as a major catalyst for the science and tech sector. Exeter Science Park continues to expand and some of the most innovative firms are based in the city, including UK and US insurtech venture Intelligent AI and Lightfoot, a green-tech firm which produces a “fitbit for cars and vans”.
The city’s skyline has been dotted with cranes for years though the pandemic slowed some of the development work. Opened in January, the £5million George Parker Bidder building at Exeter Science Park has bespoke laboratory and office space for 100 jobs.
The first tenants to move into the 14,000sq ft building, which is built to net zero carbon standards, include Concept First, Remit Zero, Securious, Edson Tiger, Rx-info and Dashboard, their move freeing up space in the hub for STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medical) start-ups.
Burrington Estates has completed the £2million conversion of Exeter’s Winslade Manor Georgian pile into an office and restaurant hub and is building offices, homes and leisure facilities at the site.
At Exeter Rugby Club, the home of Exeter Chiefs, the £40million Courtyard Exeter Sandy Park Hotel has officially opened.
The development is the latest feature in the expansion of the Sandy Park site, home to the Exeter Chiefs rugby club.
The re-developed East Stand opened at the beginning of the year, and marks a significant investment in the future of the wider business and the city as a whole.
In the city centre, St Sidwell’s Point, the UK’s first Passivhaus leisure centre, has officially opened.
It features an eight-lane, 25m main pool, a 100 station gym, fitness studios and luxury spa facilities.
How much does it cost to park?
There are city centre car parks but it’s not so easy to get a spot at peak times and there is congestion getting in to the city at peak times. For super central Premium car parks it’s £10 for seven hours or £18 all day. Zone 1 parking – that’s still the city centre, it costs £8.90 for seven hours or £13 all day. A season ticket costs £125 a month but cannot be used at weekends in some central car parks.
What about public transport?
There’s three Park and Ride car parks operated by Stagecoach at Honiton Road, Sowton and Matford. It costs £3 for a single ticket.
There is a good commuter train service into the city – living in places like Exmouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth have easy commutes by train. All trains stop at Exeter St Davids and there are connecting services to Exeter central train station.
Plus, a new station at Matford business park is currently under construction. There’s also new hourly services connecting Okehampton to Exeter, opening up commute options along the Dartmoor Line.
And to get around by e- bike, Co-bikes rents from £3 an hour.
Tell me some good places for coffee and wifi.
Grow Coffee House in South Street has working in mind – that’s why it has super fast fibre WiFi, loads of power sockets & USB charging points.
You’ll find laptops open at Coffee#1 in Roman Walk, Princesshay.
Boston Tea Party is a mainstay on Queen Street and has lots of space to get refreshed and catch up on work.
What can I do at lunchtime?
One of the biggest plus points of Exeter is the availability of green spaces, parks and walks on Exeter Quay. The new St Sidwell’s Point leisure centre has gym and exercise classes, a spa and swimming pool.
The city centre’s shopping offer is thriving with demand high for small independent shops.
What’s the average house price?
Living in Exeter has never been cheap. According to Rightmove, properties in Exeter had an overall average price of £314,704 over the last year.
The majority of sales in Exeter during the last year were terraced properties, selling for an average price of £291,580. Semi-detached properties sold for an average of £320,689, with flats fetching £188,077.
Overall, sold prices in Exeter over the last year were 7% up on the previous year and 12% up on the 2018 peak of £281,467.
Much of the South West is witnessing a housing crisis as house prices skyrocket in the region – far outstripping average earnings.
Figures by building society Nationwide show that first-time buyers in the region face stumping up six-and-a-half times typical annual earnings to get on the property ladder and – and it is estimated that for some people that figure could be rise to around ten times annual earnings.
What about commercial space?
For those businesses thinking of setting up in Exeter – industrial space is in huge demand.
Zach Maiden, Head of Exeter Agency at Vickery Holman, said that a record rent of £14 per sq ft has been set for industrial premises at Skypark in Exeter.
These BREEAM Excellent business units are among Exeter’s highest spec industrial premises and have proven that small industrial remains extremely sought after.
Premises are being snapped up on first viewing.
He said: “Demand is still far outstripping supply we expect rents to continue to increase with occupiers now searching for quality commercial space with particular attention being made to energy efficiency.”
Demand in the industrial sector is unprecedented, agreed Noel Stevens of Alder King. The firm and Colliers is jointly marketing a 22,300 sq ft speculative industrial unit at Matford Green Business Park in Exeter.
Mr Stevens said: “Take-up of industrial space in and around Exeter last year was at its highest level for five years, leaving supply at a record low.”
Tim Western, director – business space at JLL, agrees. He said that the shortage of land for commercial development particularly around Plymouth, Exeter and Torbay is at a record low and is hindering the South West economy.
Mr Western, based at JLL’s Exeter office, said: “More businesses are looking for modern business space, with sustainability credentials. There is a lot of housing going up but unfortunately employment land is the poor relation and has not had the same emphasis put on it.”
Mr Western said that in the 2000s the region saw a lot of public sector investment from the likes of quangos English Partnerships, the South West Regional Development Agency and Priority Sites, which used Government funding to make land development-ready. He said: “The public sector used to bring forward a lot of land and service it.”
Mr Western said that much of the land that has been available is now spoken for, mentioning key projects which are already under way at Exeter Logistics Park and Exeter Skypark.
And he said the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point, a public/private sector partnership, was created in 2008 and is now coming to fruition. But he asked: “What’s the next pipeline?”
He said it is mainly the growth of South West companies, rather than an influx of firms from outside the region, that is behind the hunger for new sites.
In terms of office space, the city has little availability. Average rents are around £14-20sq ft compared to £40-50 per sq ft in Bristol and Bath and around £30 sq ft in Cheltenham.