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Economy and jobs

Vision – Innovative and analytical city

Addressing the need for economic growth and job creation links to the aim in the 2040 vision of being an innovative and analytical city. Encouraging growth and investment in the knowledge economy will support new sectors, develop innovation and increase prosperity.

Vision – Accessible world-class education

Addressing the need for economic growth and job creation links to the aim in the 2040 vision of delivering accessible world class education. Developing training and skills for all will enable equality of opportunity in new sectors and support economic growth.

Vision – City of Culture

Addressing the need for economic growth and job creation links to the aim in the 2040 vision of creating a city of culture where creative making plays a leading role. Encouraging growth and investment in the creative industries will help build a living city where everyone thrives.

Objective: Develop the potential of the city for economic growth with a particular focus on the knowledge economy and ensure the benefits of jobs, skills and training are available to all. Helping to deliver the strategic priorities of delivering a prosperous local economy and a net zero city.

Introduction

The city is at the heart of the Greater Exeter area and has one of the fastest growing economies in the UK. The Liveable Exeter initiative sets out a vision for a growing, thriving city where significant housing delivery attracts major business investment and high-value jobs. Whilst Exeter has, like all cities, been significantly affected by Covid-19, it is bouncing back. There is a strong ambition to grow the economy with a focus on innovative business sectors, making the most of a skilled workforce, the benefits of the University and the world-leading research on climate change. The Exeter Plan needs to support the economy and green growth by identifying the employment space and infrastructure we need. This will help to increase prosperity and wellbeing.

Exeter is a relatively prosperous city, and its economy has been growing faster than similar cities over the last two decades. The business growth rate is also strong. Whilst the competitiveness of the city’s economy is slightly below the national average, it has increased in recent years.

Chapter Summary

The policies in this section seek to develop the potential of the city for economic growth with a particular focus on the knowledge economy and ensure the benefits of jobs, skills and training are available to all.

To see and comment on the full versions select "next" at the bottom of the page. 

Policy EJ1 takes a flexible and supportive approach by encouraging appropriate development within transformational sectors, such as data analytics, environmental futures, digital innovation, health innovation and the creative industries. It also highlights the importance of working with partners to encourage growth and investment.

Policy EJ2 seeks to protect defined employment land located in established employment areas that are key to meeting our future employment needs, whilst also allowing change of use where it could be acceptable and justified.

Policy EJ3 supports new forms of employment provision such as work hubs and collaborative work space, and ensures the delivery of these within strategic development sites.

Policy EJ4 supports work towards building skills and improving pathways to work for young people and disadvantaged groups. It requires major development proposals to submit and deliver an Employment and Skills Plan, and expresses support for development proposals that contribute to providing local residents with access to employment, skills and social value opportunities.

Policy EJ5 supports the provision of local services within employment areas for the benefit of the workforce. Local services could include a child care nursery, a medical practice or walk in centre, a dentist, a post office, a bank, a café or a small convenience store. In addition to benefitting the workforce, these would be attractive to potential businesses and investors, and should also reduce the need to travel.

Policy EJ6 allocates new employment sites to meet the specific requirements of the transformational sectors, such as data analytics, environmental futures, digital innovation, health innovation and the creative industries. These transformational employment allocations will provide additional floorspace, alongside the employment provision set out in policy EJ3, to help meet identified employment demand.

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Economic growth

There is significant potential in Exeter to take full advantage of the opportunities for economic growth. There will be a particular focus on unlocking further growth potential within the knowledge economy, especially transformational sectors.

Transformational sectors that have potential for growth in Exeter include:

  • Data analytics: This is the science of examining raw data using automated means with the purpose of drawing conclusions about that data. This is a specialism which can support innovation across a range of industries. The presence of high performance computing in the Exeter area, together with the analytical and research skills in the public and educational sectors gives a strong foundation for development.
  • Environmental futures: Supported by the data analytics specialism, there is a concentration of high-level environmental expertise in the area including at the Met Office and the University of Exeter. The city is a world leader in terms of climate change modelling, research and agricultural technology and locally there is a real focus on innovation and environmental intelligence. The need for environmental innovation has never been higher and Exeter is very well-placed to take this forward. 
  • Heath innovation: The Local Industrial Strategy recognises an emerging health innovation cluster in the area while the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Exeter fund the Joint Office for Clinical Research. The South West Digital Health Accelerator is based in Exeter to provide support for local digital innovations (including Artificial Intelligence (AI)) in the health sector.
  • Digital innovation: This includes high growth digital and AI industries such as microelectronics, autonomous systems, remote sensing, satellite applications, quantum engineering, cyber security and virtual reality. Existing expertise and world-leading research in these areas provide the building blocks for various advanced sectors including engineering, digital health, creative industries, smart energy and environmental resilience.
  • Creative industries: This is an innovative sector that has the ability to realise transformative change. Creative industries are set to become increasingly important to economic wellbeing as we become increasingly dependent on the generation of knowledge through human creativity and innovation. Exeter has long been a hub for creative makers and shakers and this is set to continue.
  • Other emerging transformational businesses: Clearly, a key characteristic of innovation is that it is not predictable therefore perhaps the greatest potential for growth is in other transformational businesses as yet unidentified.

We will support these new transformational businesses, whether they are spinoffs from the University of Exeter or other local bodies, new start-ups or inward investment by existing firms. Support could be in the form of education and training, through Building Greater Exeter, or through enabling new infrastructure such as a digital exchange and/or digital hubs. 


In supporting economic growth, the City Council aims to ensure that all of the city’s citizens gain from the prosperity and wellbeing generated by the local economy. Evidence indicates that transformational sectors have the potential to make the greatest contribution to increasing productivity and earnings within Exeter. Policy EJ1 takes a flexible and supportive approach by encouraging appropriate development (sustainably located and avoiding conflict with neighbouring uses) within these sectors and highlighting the importance of working with partners to encourage growth and investment.

EJ1: Economic growth in the transformational sectors

Exeter City Council is committed to supporting Exeter in becoming one of the UK’s leading knowledge economies. To help deliver this, appropriate development proposals for the following transformational sectors will be supported:

  • Data analytics
  • Environmental futures
  • Health innovation
  • Digital innovation
  • Other emerging transformational sectors 

Working in partnership with others, Exeter City Council will seek to deliver improvements to digital and other infrastructure, improved education and training and ‘soft landing’ packages to encourage and support growth in the transformational sectors.

Retention of employment land

The supply of employment land, and its protection for employment use, plays a critical role in responding to the opportunities for economic growth. Existing employment land can often provide space for new employment uses or additional space to allow existing businesses to expand. However, existing employment land can also provide new opportunities for mixed-use development, combining housing and employment in ways that meet the needs of growth sectors now and in the future. 


Policy EJ2 seeks to protect those established employment areas that are key to meeting our future employment needs, whilst also allowing change of use where it can be established that mixed use development could sustain both employment and housing development or where there are unacceptable amenity impacts from current employment activities.

EJ2: Retention of employment land (Strategic policy)

The established employment areas at Southernhay, Matford, Pinhoe, Sowton, Exeter Business Park, Pynes Hill and Peninsula Park will be retained in employment use. Elsewhere, the loss of employment land to an alternative use may be considered acceptable where land is allocated for redevelopment or where it is demonstrated that employment use is not viable or needed to meet current and long-term needs up to 2040.

New forms of employment provision

New forms of employment can also support economic growth. Flexible working is becoming more important and this must be supported by future development. Shared workspaces help to increase employment densities and provide flexible opportunities for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and traders. Incorporating work hubs, co-working, collaborative workspaces and live-work schemes into all large scale residential developments will ensure a truly liveable and sustainable cultural environment and support the national shift to alternative ways of working. Shared use of public and community spaces can also contribute. Community cafes and creative hubs can connect individuals, encourage creativity and allow collaborative working.


It will also be important for all new homes to include home offices or at least to be designed in a way to facilitate home working. Policy H14: Residential amenity and healthy homes includes requirements on this.


Policy EJ3 supports new forms of employment provision and ensures delivery at large scale employment developments.

EJ3: New forms of employment provision (Strategic policy)

To promote economic growth, reduce the need to travel, deliver high quality development and support flexible working, development proposals for the following new forms of employment development will be supported:

  • Work hubs; 
  • Collaborative workspace; and
  • Appropriate live-work schemes.

Strategic brownfield development proposals will be required to include these forms of provision unless it has been demonstrated robustly that the demand has been addressed in other ways.

Access to jobs and skills

Employment is a route to supporting inclusive growth and social inclusion. For people who are not economically active, pathways into employment need to be person-specific, providing opportunities to build confidence and personal skills for entering work as well as formal skills and qualifications. The City Council will work with regional and local partners such as the University of Exeter, Exeter College, and training providers to build skills and improve pathways to work for young people and disadvantaged groups. The City Council will also work closely with Building Greater Exeter, an initiative that aims to:

  • Inspire new candidates and represent employers at engagement events;
  • Support employers by facilitating recruitment, up-skilling and re-skilling;
  • Deliver social value through employment and skills plans on major developments; and
  • Produce experiences promoting a culture that makes the built environment a great place to work.

Building Greater Exeter work with organisations, appointed contractors and the supply chain and are happy to support those bringing forward new development in the city.


By improving access to employment, we will reduce poverty and inequality, increasing the city’s resilience and enhance the economic and social wellbeing of every community. To support this ambition, development proposals should remove barriers and contribute to enabling access to employment for local residents, developing skills and supporting employment initiatives where:

  • New homes are developed; or 
  • New workspace and other commercial development is created; or
  • ther major development arises which would generate new employment including during the construction phase.

This will be achieved through the development, submission and delivery of an Employment and Skills Plan for all major developments using the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) client based approach which is widely recognised within the industry. These plans contain targets for a range of employment, volunteering and development activities. This will help provide opportunities for local people to experience and join the future workforce.


Policy EJ4 supports work towards building skills and improving pathways to work for young people and disadvantaged groups.

EJ4: Access to jobs and skills        

The City Council is committed to supporting access to employment and learning opportunities, social mobility, and city-wide inclusion. Development proposals will be supported when they contribute to:

  • Enabling access and removing barriers to employment for local residents;
  • Facilitating skills development and learning opportunities;
  • Supporting employment initiatives (through work placements, apprenticeships and job creation); and
  • Social value.
All major development proposals will be required to submit, and deliver the provisions in, an Employment and Skills Plan to demonstrate that the above objectives will be met.

Provision of local services in employment areas

The City Council recognises that many of the successful employment areas in Exeter would benefit from the provision of some local services which would otherwise be located in existing centres. This could assist the workforce, be attractive to inward investors seeking a suitable location and should also reduce the need to travel by car. Local services could include a child care nursery, a medical practice or walk-in centre, a dentist, a chemist, a post office, a bank, cash points, a sandwich bar or a small convenience store for top-up purchases (with retail floorspace not exceeding 500 square metres).


The acceptance of local services within the city’s employment areas must not set a precedent for other uses. Planning permission should only be granted if it is demonstrated that the local service is not already suitably provided within the area. The service should meet local workforce needs only and not generate trips by people living or working outside the employment area and such services should be located within reasonable walking distance of the local workforce (which would normally be approximately 400 metres).


Policy EJ5 supports the provision of local services within employment areas for the benefit of the workforce. The employment area of Southernhay is excluded from the provisions of Policy EJ5, due to its close proximity to existing services in the city centre.

EJ5: Provision of local services in employment areas

Development proposals involving the provision of local services within the established employment areas at Matford, Pinhoe, Sowton, Exeter Business Park, Pynes Hill and Peninsula Park will be permitted when: 

  1. The service is designed to serve local workforce needs only;
  2. There is not sufficient provision to meet local workforce needs through existing services in the area; 
  3. It would be located within reasonable walking distance of the local workforce, taking into account new or enhanced routes; and
  4. It would not harm the primary function of the area as a business park or industrial estate.

New transformational employment allocations (Strategic policy)

New employment sites are allocated in policy EJ6 to meet the specific requirements of the transformational sectors. Allocating sites which are suitable for transformational employment development can help remove barriers to delivery and act as a catalyst for further growth.


Along with the protection of the established employment areas and the provision of work hubs, collaborative workspace and live-work schemes within the strategic brownfield development sites, these transformational employment allocations will provide additional floorspace to help meet identified employment demand. Each site has its own characteristics which will impact on the form of development, the approach to delivery and the potential occupants.


The land adjacent to Sandy Park and the land adjacent to Ikea are both sites that are in accessible locations on the eastern side of the city close to Junction 30. The sites’ accessibility will be attractive to speculative development for transformational uses and could provide accommodation for start-ups.


The Toby Carvery site is in a prominent and accessible location within close proximity to local amenities and public transport. As such it could provide a prestigious flagship site for a high profile occupant.


The St Luke’s site forms part of the University of Exeter’s campus and currently provides academic, administrative, sports and social facilities for the University of Exeter. The site will require redevelopment to provide a future health campus, to consolidate health and wellbeing activities and help the University to scale up its biomedical and clinical research and associated commercialisation. Redevelopment of the campus will also strengthen the existing research and teaching links between the University and the Royal Devon University Hospital. Proposals at St Luke’s will need to be of a high quality and appropriate in the context of the wider residential area. Proposals will need to demonstrate through the preparation of a masterplan framework regard for the environmental and heritage assets on site and in the surrounding area.


Most transformational employment uses are within planning Use Class E: Commercial, Business and Service meaning they can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke soot, ash, dust or grit. The imposition of a ‘gateway’ requirement (enforced through condition or legal agreement) will be needed to limit the future use of new developments to those within a transformational sectors.  

EJ6: New transformational employment allocations (Strategic policy)

The following sites are allocated for transformational employment development and associated infrastructure and will be retained for this purpose: 

Land adjacent to Sandy Park, Newcourt - 7 hectares

Land adjacent Ikea, Newcourt - 4 hectares

Toby Carvery, Rydon Lane, Middlemoor - 1.5 hectares 

St Luke’s Health Campus, Heavitree Road - 4.5 hectares

We have no specific questions on this policy. If you wish to comment on specific sites you can do this on the sites information section on the homepage.

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