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29/04/2019

Planning polices are required to meet housing needs of old and young, say Lords

Words: Laura Edgar

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provisions maintains that local authorities need to adopt specific planning policies to meet the housing needs of younger and older people.

The Lords state that it is important that the housing needs of different age groups are considered.

The select committee noted evidence from retirement community representative body ARCO that just 11 per cent of local plans in England and Wales have specific policies to address older people’s housing needs, while the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that local authorities should consider the needs of older people in their area.

Younger people’s needs are also not currently explicitly considered as part of the framework, states the committee’s report, Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness.

It suggests that the government should issue planning guidance to recommend that local plans examine the needs of younger people alongside the existing specified demographics. Further, the government needs to ensure that local plans contain specific policies to address the needs of younger and older people. Should the NPPF’s new requirement that local authorities decide that this does not work the government “must take more direct action”.

Michael Voges, executive director of ARCO, said: “It is clear that from a housing perspective it is not a zero-sum game. The best way to free up larger houses for younger generations is to provide specialist housing with care for older people... The planning guidance they are calling for is long overdue – MHCLG should grasp this opportunity to boost much-needed retirement community housing and improve the lives of older people and younger people alike.”

As far as the Lords are concerned, the government has failed to manage the land its owns properly, and should therefore invest in developing a central government capability to “fully understand” what land public bodies own, and how it can be used or where it can be disposed of.

The use of public land is limited by the stipulation that it is sold off at market value.

Tom Kenny, the RTPI’s policy officer, told the committee that addressing this could be a “key way in which local authorities can meet social needs in their area”.

The Lords referred to a government consultation on giving local authorities broader powers to dispose of local authority land at less than market value where there are wider public benefits, but the committee said this would “not dramatically alter the balance of power and force more public land to be used to provide affordable housing”. It asked witnesses about “radically shifting” the balance of power so local authorities could lead the process, with onus shifting to public bodies to object or develop the land themselves.

Kenny told the committee the RTPI “would certainly welcome local authorities taking a bigger role in proactively planning to meet the needs in their areas”.

To increase housing supply, the committee recommends that local authorities should be given a presumption to develop on land owned by public sector bodies.

“Local authorities should be empowered to ensure that development on public land takes place.”

Kenny also made the case for more resources to the committee. “I said a lack of resources and expertise were a problem for local authorities who were struggling to deliver the housing that their local area wanted – it’s clear that local authorities are losing through attrition by not being able to compete with the resources that developers can put in to viability negotiations.”

Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness can be found on the UK Parliament website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock

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