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Exeter has had a mayor since at least 1207 and until 2002, the city was the oldest 'Right Worshipful' Mayoralty in England. As part of the Queen's 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations Exeter was chosen to receive the title of Lord Mayor. Councillor Granville Baldwin became the first Lord Mayor of Exeter on 1 May 2002 when Letters Patent were awarded to the city during a visit by the Queen.
The Lord Mayor is elected each year from amongst the 40 Exeter city councillors and is non-political for the term of office.
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary have their headquarters based at Middlemoor in the east of the city.
The city of Exeter was established on the eastern bank of the River Exe on a ridge of land backed by a steep hill. It is at this point that the Exe, having just been joined by the River Creedy, opens onto a wide flood plain and estuary which results in quite common flooding. Historically this was the lowest bridging point of the River Exe which was tidal and navigable up to the city until the construction of weirs later in its history. This combined with the easily defensible higher ground of the ridge made the current location of the city a natural choice for settlement and trade. In George Oliver's The History of the City of Exeter, it is noted that the most likely reasons for the original settling of what would become modern Exeter was the "fertility of the surrounding countryside" and the area's "beautiful and commanding elevation [and] its rapid and navigable river". Its woodland would also have been ideal for natural resources and hunting.
Exeter sits predominantly on sandstone and conglomerate geology, although the structure of the surrounding areas is varied. The topography of the ridge which forms the backbone of the city includes a volcanic plug, on which the Rougemont Castle is situated. The Cathedral is located on the edge of this ridge and is therefore visible for a considerable distance.
The city has been expanding in size quite considerably in recent years, with a population estimate of 117,600 in 2005, up over 6,000 from the census in 2001. The city remains one of the most homogenous in England and Wales, with over 99% of the resident population being of White British origin.
The city provides strong industries and services to a sizable area. The Met Office, the main weather forecasting organisation for the United Kingdom and one of the most significant in the world, relocated from Bracknell in Berkshire to Exeter in early 2004. It is one of the three largest employers in the area (together with the University of Exeter and Devon County Council).
The city centre provides substantial shopping facilities. The High Street is mainly devoted to branches of national chains: A NEF survey in 2005 rated Exeter as the worst example of a clone town in the UK, with only a single independent store in the city's High Street, and less diversity (in terms of different categories of shop) than any other town surveyed. Three significant shopping areas that connect to the High Street provide a somewhat more varied menu. Princesshay, a post-war retail area connecting to the south side of the High Street was home to a number of independent stores prior to redevelopment in 2007, but is now also largely occupied by national chains. It is an innovative varied development and it is still intended that a number of the new units will be let to local independent stores. On the other side of the High Street, the partly undercover Guildhall shopping centre (a 1970s reconstruction following the second world war bombing) houses a mixture of national and more regional shops, and connects to the wholly enclosed Harlequins centre where smaller businesses predominate. Smaller streets off the High Street such as Gandy Street also offer a range of independent shops.
On 26 June 2004, Exeter was granted Fairtrade City status.
Although a popular tourist destination, the city is not dominated by tourism, with only 7% of employment dependent on tourism compared with 13% for Devon as a whole (2005 figures)
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