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30/05/2018

Planning must keep up with an ageing population

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Population

A simple change to use classes could transform our ability to provide housing for an ageing population, says Dean Clifford.

Data from AgeUK shows that the number of people aged over 60 will increase from 15 million to 20 million by 2030.

This is paralleled with a greater willingness to stay in the city rather than retreat to the traditional haunts in the Home Counties, and a greater understanding of old-age loneliness.

It is clear that we need later living schemes. But the stumbling block to providing these has been an insensitive planning system. Currently, such schemes walk a fine line between planning use classes; the result being that neither use class (C2 or C3) truly captures the essence of the building.

To recap the issues here: later living schemes are residential developments focused on the older demographic, providing sheltered housing with on-site care provision. These buildings may provide greater accessibility, communal opportunities and design focusing on health and mental well-being. While it is not a large sector in the UK at the moment, it is in the US, where 12 per cent of over-65s live in such purpose-built communities.

“While this is a problem with later living, it hints at the wider issue of static planning policy, unable to be as fluid as the working and living models being created within it”

The public sector used to provide a large portion of such housing, but the private sector is now starting to enter the fray.

With this come the issues of classifications. It is unclear whether such schemes should be classified as C2 (residential accommodation and care to people in need – e.g. hospitals, schools and training centres) or as C3 (referring to different types of dwelling houses, but not houses in multiple occupation).

But what is the relevance of this? Different use classes will have different requirements. Thus, by classifying extra care as C3, developers will have to provide affordable housing and must locate the housing in areas of general need.

These additional provisions do not fit the purpose of extra care and can affect viability, meaning that extra care housing does not come about at all.

With the problem identified, the answer is straightforward. We could either designate such housing better in the local and regional plans or move extra care into its own distinctive class in the sui generis category of development.

An ageing population is choosing to stay in the city. We must make sure that planning policy is used to gear development to match our needs, rather than hinder us.

Dean Clifford is co-founder of Great Marlborough Estates.

Photo | Shutterstock

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