Recent changes to Planning Practice Guidance indicates a growing need in housing for an ageing population
Population estimates in mid-2016 identified there were 1.6 million people over the age of 85. With people living longer, this figure is set to double in the next 25 years to exceed 3.2 million people. An increasingly large elderly population demographic comes with a unique set of challenges, including a greater need for specialist forms of residential accommodation.
The provision of appropriate housing is crucial in helping older people live safe and independent lives and as a result, the recent revision to planning guidance sets out the importance of understanding how an ageing population impacts housing needs at the Plan making stage. Strategic Policy makers need to consider the needs of elderly populations throughout the entire duration of the Plan period, both in terms of the quantity and nature of accommodation required. Specialist Accommodation incorporates a range of different types of specialised accommodation meeting the diverse needs of older people. For example, there has in recent years been a noticeable increase in the number of elderly housing facilities offering a broad range of leisure activities such as private gyms, cinema’s and workshops, which are provided as an integral feature of a development. Such accommodation is substantially different from the more traditional forms of elderly accommodation such as extra care housing or nursing homes, which provide a high level of care to residents on a daily basis.
The increased provision of housing for the elderly, particular in the form of specialist accommodation has led to several recent legal decisions in respect of land use classification. In January 2018, Pegasus Life successfully argued at appeal that a scheme of 113 self-contained units for over 60’s along with staff accommodation was C2 rather than C3 Use. However, in February 2019 the Inspector found a scheme of 30 retirement bungalows to be in C3 Use. The characteristics distinguishing between the C2 and C3 Use relate in part to the provision of personal care. Indeed, the NPPG states that local planning authorities should give consideration to “the level of care and scale of communal facilities provided”. The importance of land use classification is best understood in the context of affordable housing provision, which is applicable to C3 land uses.
Whilst specialist accommodation for the elderly has is far from a new concept, the scale and variety of this provision has significantly increased in recent years and is set to undergo further growth. With such growth comes a clear need to incorporate provisions for ageing populations within the Local Plan Process, providing clarity for both developers and local planning authorities as to the expected provision of specialist accommodation and how these are viewed in the context of Planning Obligations.