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Vision for a secure future

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

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Today's publication of a new city centre strategy for Exeter covering the next 10 years makes crucial reading.

It would be easy for Exeter to rest on its laurels after a period of real success and growth in the city centre, culminating in the opening of the hugely impressive John Lewis store last year.

Compared to locations of a similar size, the vacancy rate for shops in the city centre is low and Exeter is increasingly seen as the key shopping destination west of Bristol.

Princesshay has been a big success, and the planned redevelopment of the bus station site gives Exeter scope for a fresh wave of city centre investment.

The city has worked hard to develop a growing café culture and the nighttime economy has been transformed with the addition of numerous new restaurants and bars in recent years.

So why is a new strategy for the years ahead so important? The answer is simple. A number of very real and very important factors threaten the long term viability of city centres across the country. And Exeter is no different.

As the council's draft strategy points out, the growth of internet shopping will increasingly change the way we buy things. And out of town shopping developments continue to cause a major challenge. Nationally, the retail sector remains fragile and household names continue to disappear from the High Street.

The report highlights the importance of city centres for the whole community as a place to meet, socialise, eat, drink and shop as well as serving as a transport hub. Put simply, if a city centre is successful a city is successful.

The new strategy has a bold vision for increased access and pedestrianisation, for greener areas, culture and entertainment and a thriving and safe nighttime economy. It's a vision which should be applauded. But it's also a vision which needs the input of everyone lucky enough to live or work in Exeter.

The widest possible discussion of all the issues raised in the strategy is crucial if we are to ensure the city plans effectively for the decade ahead. We all need to play a part if our city is to build on the successes of the past and prepare for the challenges of the future.

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