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Planning for a comfortable seat

An armchair

New directions in the National Planning Policy Guidance may have created an incentive to develop more and better housing for older people, argues Peter Dines

Peter Dines“Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator,” said Confucius.
Perhaps we might all be in a better position to get that comfy seat, as the government has introduced a ‘game-changing’ planning policy to help meet the housing needs of older people.
Our population is ageing; It’s a consequence of the age structure of the population alive today and increased longevity – but tangible evidence of policies to address this has been hard to find.
National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), published last year, is changing this. There is now a real prospect of care developers being able to meet the needs of our ageing community while increasing the housing supply for all.
The Demos Top Of The Ladder report highlighted the “chronic under-supply of appropriate housing for older people”. But planning policy has been slow to respond, and obstacles to development have been surprising.

"There is now a real prospect of care developers being able to meet the needs of our ageing community"

One should expect positive planning policy creating market conditions that bring forward SHOP (Strategic Housing for Older People) development. The London Plan explicitly told local authorities they could apply affordable housing policy to class C2 care accommodation. But in doing so, the practical effect has been that as planning officers seek to enforce affordable housing requirements, schemes have fallen at pre-application stage because the costs don’t work.
Meanwhile, NHS consultees complain that developments will increase pressure on services, without appreciating the absurdity of their position. SHOP development doesn’t create new dependency; it provides life and health-enhancing opportunities.
Another ‘given’ is that resources can only be unlocked by empty nesters ‘downsizing’. Developers in the care sector constantly evolve models and choices to meet this need, but a problem has been lack of opportunities as they play on the same pitch as residential developers. The greater costs of SHOP development give residential developers a stronger position in the land market.
The NPPG has introduced a statement that class C2 accommodation (including care and extra care housing) should be included as counting towards local plan housing targets. There is now an incentive to plan positively for SHOP development to meet housing need as higher unit densities can be accommodated on sites if these are of Class C2 developments. There is a real prospect of new models of care, extra care and residential SHOP development coming forward.
Peter Dines is a partner in planning and development for property consultant Gerald Eve


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