Councils lacking in clear policies to for housing needs of ageing population

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Half of councils across England lack clear policies for the provision of suitable housing to meet the needs of an ageing population, new research has revealed.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell revisited a survey carried out in 2017, which ranked the planning policies of local authorities between ‘A’ and ‘D’ – ‘A’ meaning the council had a clear policy and ‘D’ meaning the council did not any specific planning policy in place for senior housing.

In 2017, 203 councils (6.17%) received a D ranking and 329 councils (9.7%) were graded A.

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A follow up survey, conducted this year in partnership with property consultancy Knight Frank, found 60 (18.6%) were graded A and 161 (50%) graded D.

While this represents a small improvement, the number of councils not planning for an ageing population remains significant.

Nicola Gooch, planning partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Despite some improvement it is extremely disappointing to see that 50% of local authorities in England have neither a useful planning policy nor site allocations in their local plans to provide for such accommodation.

“Local authorities have moved forward in the past three years – but only by very little steps and certainly not fast enough to cover the demographic shifts. The current patchwork approach to local plans is holding back the development of the sector and needs to end. A national and local policy framework that works to promote a uniform and supportive approach to senior housing is required.”

Developing suitable housing will be essential given that by 2037, one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 and over, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Lauren Harwood, head of Senior Living Research at Knight Frank, said: “There is currently a huge supply and demand imbalance of senior housing in England, which is widening amidst a growing and ageing population. It is vital to increase the provision of seniors housing.

“This is part of the solution to create more capacity in the social care system while also supporting the wider housing market. With that in mind, it is crucial that developers understand where the opportunities are, and how they can access these to help meet the needs of our seniors.”

The 2020 study also found that very few large cities appear to be close to addressing the challenges posed by housing an ageing population.

Many major cities are a ‘D’ rating, including Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leicester, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton.

Leeds is an exception- it has an ‘A’ rating for planning and performs well in the overall opportunity rankings also.

London is increasingly becoming an ageing city and its boroughs exclusively make up the nation’s top 10 ageing local authorities.

Despite this, London is underperforming when it comes to delivering housing for its senior citizens, with 22 boroughs currently holding a planning score of ‘D’.

While the new draft London Plan recognises the importance of the sector, its record on delivery has been poor, according to Irwin Mitchell and Knight Frank.

Between 2017 and 2019, just over 700 senior living homes per annum were delivered, totalling 2,100 units, compared to the target of 4,115 units per annum.

In contrast, Cheshire West & Chester is a ‘best in class’ local authority, according to the researchers, having an allocation for seniors’ housing, a supportive policy environment, a clear position on affordable housing and Community Infrastructure Levy requirements for residential conversion.

It is also the only authority to appear in the top 20 opportunity areas for both private and affordable operators.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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