Devon’s position in the South West peninsula has encouraged the growth of major transport links on the eastern side of the county. The county attracts nearly six million visitors per year and the resident population is growing at over twice the national average. High levels of economic activity and relatively high employment rates sometimes mask the low productivity and low average wages within the county. Agriculture, tourism and the public sector make up a larger percentage of the Devon workforce than nationally, and the Devon economy would be more severely affected by future changes in these sectors.
Around 5% of the Devon population live in the most deprived 20% of areas nationally, including parts of Exeter, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Bideford, Dawlish, Dartmouth, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot and Tiverton. Deprived areas in Devon tend to be smaller and more dispersed than other areas of the South West, although the deprivation in these areas is no less severe. Around 11% of the Devon population are classed as income deprived, ranging from 33% in parts of central Ilfracombe to 1% in areas north of the University of Exeter.
Strong population growth, a low wage economy and the image of the South West as a desirable place to live have greatly increased the demand for and cost of housing in Devon. House prices are above the national average, rents are above the national average and particularly high in Exeter, and levels of homelessness in the South West are higher than any other region outside London. This has implications for health with poor housing precipitating a range of physical and mental conditions.