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UK is failing to plan for elderly population, suggests report

Words: Laura Edgar

Research by planning consultancy Lichfields has indicated that the UK is failing to plan for its ageing population, as only 16 out of 149 local plans reviewed identifying a specific requirement for older people’s housing.

Out of the 16, just six have allocated land for housing for older people.

However, Lichfields found that many councils have a growing awareness of the need to improve the allocation for and delivery of older people.

According to Solutions to An Age Old Problem, most Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMA) in England recognise, “to varying degrees, the general need for specialist elderly person accommodation or adapted C3 dwellings within their respective housing market areas”.

The report highlights the guidance that each country has on elderly housing, including:

  • Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), which requires local planning authorities to consider the need for specialist provision for accessible and adapted housing to support independent living for the elderly.
  • The 10th edition of Planning Policy Wales (PPW) includes a commitment to create communities that are accessible for the elderly.
  • England’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) recognises that older people should be taken into consideration when planning for housing, while Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) notes that providing housing for older people is important.

But, it goes on to say, just 17 per cent of local planning authorities in England and Wales monitor the delivery of elderly accommodation. In Scotland, 80 per cent of local authorities are monitoring the supply of elderly accommodation. However, if the monitoring “is not related to a clear policy on requirement or land allocations the impact will be limited”.

The report says that without some positive policy measures the failure to provide enough homes for the elderly population will exacerbate the continuing housing issues.

Jennifer Nye, senior planner at Lichfields, said: “The UK’s elderly population is growing and a clear plan is needed to ensure that the housing needs of this demographic are adequately met.

“But national and local planning policy is not currently doing this. We need to establish a system which requires all local planning authorities to objectively assess the housing needs of its older population.

“This should recognise the roles of different types of accommodation which are required and ensure that policy is fit to enable delivery.”

The report includes a number of recommendations.

  • The government should publish a national strategy providing details on how the housing needs of older people will be met.
  • Expedite the new statutory duty on the secretary of state to produce guidance for local planning authorities on how their local development documents should meet the housing needs of older people, requiring local planning authorities to include positive polices and allocations for housing for older people and monitor its delivery. Parallel guidance should be issued by both the Scottish Government and Welsh Government.
  • Clarity should be provided in PPG, PPW and SPP regarding standard definitions of older people’s housing and what Use Classes they fall within, including whether a new Use Class is required.

Nye added that the planning system will play a crucial role in facilitating the delivery of the homes and facilities required to meet the needs of this growing demographic.

“But falling to provide sufficient new homes for this group could have wider impacts on public services, especially social and health care, whilst also impacting on the ability of the younger generations to gain a foothold on the property ladder.”

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