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Housing for Older and Disabled People – Guides councils in preparing planning policies on housing for older and disabled people

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate
  • Real estate planning

28-06-2019

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published new guidance on 26 June 2019 in relation to housing for older and disabled people.  The guidance forms part of National Planning Practice Guidance and will be a material consideration in both plan making and decision taking.

The guidance acknowledges that older people will form an increasing proportion of the population and that understanding the housing needs of the ageing population is an important part of the planning process.  These needs should be factored in to local plan making which then sets the context for future development in a local authority area to meet identified needs.

It is noted that plan making authorities will need to create policies which set out how proposals will be considered for the different types of housing required, which may include design requirements, allocating sites or establishing targets for the number of units of specialist housing.  The guidance also explains the different types of housing which are typically designed to meet the needs of older people.

On the issue of use classes which has been a thorn in the side of the retirement living sector for many years, the guidance has little to add on the approach to be adopted.   Instead, it simply confirms that the local planning authority must consider which use class a particular development may fall within.  It notes that in order to establish whether the use class should be C2 (Residential Institutions) or C3 (Dwellinghouse), which can be critical to establishing whether there is a requirement to provide affordable housing, the level of care and scale of communal facilities provided should be considered.

The guidance also notes that specialist housing models may differ from a standard approach and that viability assessments may be justified as part of any planning application to establish whether developments can meet other policy requirements related to planning gain.  However, it stops short of elaborating on the specific viability issues which affect the sector and provides little further advice to local planning authorities on what to expect from developers promoting specialist housing projects.

Finally, it is confirmed that local authorities should count housing provided for older people against their overall housing requirement.

Overall, the guidance largely restates relevant aspects of existing policy and therefore does not create much in the way of further assistance to those promoting or determining applications for such projects. As such many will regard it as a missed opportunity.  However, for the first time the Government has brought together in one place planning guidance on housing for older people, and that in itself demonstrates that the issue is rising up the political agenda which many will welcome.

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