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Government planning reforms 'will fail to deliver enough homes' for older people

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Government planning reforms 'will fail to deliver enough homes' for older people

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Government planning reforms 'will fail to deliver enough homes' for older people Government planning reforms 'will fail to deliver enough homes' for older people

A group of leading housing providers have written to the Government to voice their concerns that proposed reforms to the planning system will fail to deliver enough homes for older people to meet the needs of England’s ageing population.

Chief Executives from developers Anchor, McCarthy & Stone, Audley Retirement and Housing 21 have signed a joint letter to Greg Clark MP, the Minister responsible for the draft National Planning Policy Framework.  

The letter states that they are concerned that the Framework 'does not go far enough' to address the housing and care needs of the UK’s ageing population.

According to the letter, few councils currently plan properly for the needs of older people. Less than half of councils have housing strategies for older people and around two-thirds of planning applications for new retirement housing schemes are refused first time round according to research by the University of Reading.

The letter makes five key recommendations that the companies feel should be included within the Framework, including making planning for demographic change a core principle of the whole document. It also calls for a dedicated Minister for Older People to be appointed to help raise issues such as these across Government.

Howard Phillips, Chief Executive of McCarthy & Stone, said: “We are pleased with the Government’s overall approach to the Framework but it does not go far enough to deliver the sea change in policy that is required to build more specialist housing for older people.

"If we are serious about providing suitable housing for older people to live in while addressing their care and support needs, it’s vital the Government looks at making these changes.”

Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive of Anchor said: “There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating the relationship between appropriate housing and health in old age. More must be done to ensure people are able to enjoy their later years in homes which meet their needs.”

The other signatures include Nick Sanderson, Chief Executive of Audley Retirement and Pushpa Raguvaran, Chief Executive of Housing 21.

Together, these companies provide housing and care services for over 150,000 people.

Here is the full text of the letter to Greg Clark:

Dear Mr Clark

Re: Housing for older people and the NPPF

We wanted to write to you before the consultation on the NPPF closes to set out our position with regard to the Framework’s likely impact on the delivery of specialist housing for older people.  

We support the direction of the Government’s reforms and we feel the NPPF is a step in the right direction to increase housing delivery and boost economic growth.  However, we are concerned that it does not go far enough to address the housing and care needs of our ageing population. Few councils currently plan properly for the needs of older people.  Less than half of councils have housing strategies for older people and around two-thirds of planning applications for new retirement housing schemes are refused first time round.

There is a real lack of understanding of the need for such housing.  The Dilnot Commission’s report, which was published in July and looked at the costs of care in later life, highlighted that this form of housing could be one answer to the challenge of providing support and assistance for the elderly.  For many, it could delay or remove the need for residential care by providing independent living with degrees of integrated personal care and support.  But these new housing models are not recognised by our archaic planning system.

Specialist housing for older people also helps to release larger under-occupied homes for younger families to move into.   This has a knock on effect that stimulates the housing chain and ultimately benefits the first time buyer.  In some areas, this also relieves the considerable pressure to build on green belt land.  In addition, properties that are re-occupied by families are often refurbished and made more energy efficient helping to achieve other sustainability goals.

The demographic changes facing society make it imperative that Government helps to change this.  The delivery of homes suitable for older people has not kept pace with our ageing population.  The number of people aged over 65 currently stands at 10 million and is set to grow to nearly 17 million by 2035.  And the vast majority of older people now, and in the future, are home-owners.  Yet, the UK has built just 105,000 specialist retirement homes for owner occupation to date, and just 500,000 of all types of specialist homes for the elderly.  This is significantly less than other developed countries.

The Framework should seek to encourage local government to view positively applications for specialist housing, especially as half of new household growth will be by those aged over 65 and the UK struggles to fund adult social care provision.  Together, we recommend five changes that we hope can be incorporated within the NPPF:

- Make planning for demographic change a ‘Core Principle’ of the NPPF.  Given the importance of our ageing population and the positive personal and public benefits of specialist housing for older people, the need to plan for demographic change should be included as one of the strategic planning principles of the whole NPPF.

- Strengthen the link between housing and health.  The single paragraph on health and housing should be strengthened and expanded given the weight of evidence that notes how specialist housing improves older people’s health. This will ensure that councils view future applications positively.  At a minimum, the following additional sentence should be included: Local authorities should view positively those planning applications that deliver proven social and health benefits to local residents, particularly for the elderly (e.g. specialist housing for older people).

- Strengthen the requirement to undertake robust housing needs assessments. The need for local authorities to plan for specialist housing for older people across all tenures as part of the housing needs assessments must be made clearer within the NPPF.  Without clear direction, authorities will continue to avoid planning for this form of housing, particularly in the private sector.  DCLG’s pending review of its SHMA guidance should also make clear this requirement.

- Specialist housing for older people should be exempt from affordable housing contributions.  Recent research by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the University of Reading recommended a reassessment of the impact of affordable housing contributions on the delivery of new retirement accommodation and called for this form of housing to be reclassified as equal to affordable housing in its own right.  The CSJ recommended a pilot scheme where this requirement is lifted for a limited period to see if such a change stimulates delivery.  We would support such a pilot.

- Introduce a dedicated Minister for Older People.   While not something for the NPPF, such a position would ensure the needs of older people are recognised across Government.

The NPPF plans to introduce a step change in housing delivery.  This is welcome.  But in its current form, it is unlikely to address the specific difficulties that we experience in delivering specialist housing for older people.

Until the benefits of this form of housing are recognised and highlighted in Government policy, we will not achieve the radical change that is required to meet the housing needs of our ageing population.

We look forward to your response.

Howard Phillips, Chief Executive, McCarthy & Stone

Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive, Anchor

Pushpa Raguvaran, Chief Executive, Housing 21

Nick Sanderson, Chief Executive, Audley Retirement

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