Exeter is one of the fastest growing cities in the country in terms of population, housing, new business start-ups and employment. Liveable Exeter is a Garden City programme, which has evolved from a need to ensure that future growth supports health, wellbeing and the environment, so the city and surrounding region continues to be an attractive location to live, work and visit.

One of the key objectives of Liveable Exeter, as it embarks on a programme to create 12,000 new homes in sustainable neighbourhoods and communities, is to meet the city’s objective to be carbon neutral by 2030, an initiative which is led by Exeter City Futures (ECF).

In September 2019, Exeter City Council asked ECF to work with the city to curate a shared plan for Exeter to be net-zero carbon by 2030. Reaching the net-zero goal will see Exeter recognised as a leading sustainable city and a global leader in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of climate change and urbanisation.

How will Liveable Exeter meet those targets outlined in the net-zero strategy?

Continued growth presents challenges for the city’s transport system which, unless addressed, could result in increased congestion, pollution and unreliable journeys. Built on a historic road network, adding additional capacity through road building is no longer possible. Instead, providing capacity for future growth will depend on effective sustainable alternative developments, such as those planned within the city boundary by Liveable Exeter, alongside sophisticated management of existing transport corridors and infrastructure.

Eight transformational projects have been identified by Liveable Exeter across the city as communities which will be served by quality public transport links and based on active travel, including walking and cycling, rather than travelling by private car.

Richard Marsh, Project Director for Liveable Exeter, said:

‘The key aims of Liveable Exeter and the net-zero objective are very much intertwined. Our vision is to create urban communities which enable people to be active, reducing impact on our road systems and in turn reducing congestion and pollution.

‘Instead of turning to development on the edge of the city, which would place even more pressure on our transport networks, we plan to transform brownfield sites within the city boundary and create purposeful places for people to live and work. Our urban communities will be created so people don’t have to drive to access amenities or leisure facilities, enabling us to support an active, healthy population.

‘Homes will be built sustainably and to a high quality, existing council properties will be upgraded or retro-fitted to improve energy efficiency. Additionally, we will maintain and expand the city’s green setting.’

Over the past decade Exeter City Council has pioneered Passivhaus standards in the UK, deployed renewable generation across their public sites and delivered large-scale district heating networks. Passivhaus homes need almost no heating, have clean air and are built with minimal impact on the planet.

As well as retrofitting of homes to improve energy standards, there will be an increased provision of affordable, quality and sustainable housing in the city; enabling lower income families to live centrally and have easy access to employment and services. Planning policies will be updated to support housing design features which create a healthy environment and promote wellbeing as standard, all of which will contribute to the city’s net-zero aims.

Further joint aims of Liveable Exeter and ECF are the elimination of fuel poverty and the reduction of domestic energy demand and spend across the city. Liveable Exeter will also meet the requirements that all new developments are undertaken in a way that achieves the highest standards for wildlife, water and wellbeing, making a positive contribution to the local environment.

In Exeter City Council’s 2020 budget statement, Cllr Phil Bialyk, Leader of the City Council, said:

‘We are protecting green open spaces and doing everything we can to increase biodiversity. I am committed to delivering a net biodiversity gain from all developments.’

To follow Exeter’s progress as ECF and its partners work to achieve their net-zero aims visit


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