Tetlow King Planning (TKP) is pleased to have been the planning consultants on a scheme recently approved at appeal for a new Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) for older people (comprising 100 extra care units falling into Use Class C2) in the Green Belt. The site comprises an existing golf clubhouse, and hotel within the District of Sevenoaks, Kent.
The site was not allocated in any Local Plan and while located on the edge of Edenbridge it was classified as an open countryside site. The appeal decision looked in detail at the need, demand and supply of accommodation within the District and also analysed the nature of the proposal, highlighting the benefits of extra care accommodation to older people and the weight that can be attributed to that in consideration of a Green Belt site. It is a positive example of how to overcome the issues associated with challenging Green Belt site and how the benefits of the proposals can be weighed into the planning balance.
John Sneddon and Rachel Coles of TKP prepared and submitted the outline application on behalf of Pacalis Group Companies which took close to a year to be determined, due to many discussions with the Local Planning Authority over a number of issues. Planning permission was refused based on being inappropriate development in the Green Belt. TKP also submitted and coordinated the planning appeal.
The two main issues for refusal of planning permission were:
- The effect of the proposal on the openness of the Green Belt; and
- Whether the harm by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, would be clearly outweighed by other considerations which would form very special circumstances for the proposal
At the appeal, the Council acknowledged that they could not identify a 5 Year Housing Land Supply (agreeing to a figure of 2.6 years) and that there is currently a need for specialist housing for older people within the District however, they were reluctant to consider that the need for this type of accommodation could override the Green Belt designation. The Council has also had great difficulties with their new development plan with that being turned away by central government and then that decision being unsuccessfully challenged by the Council meaning a new and up to date local plan is unlikely to be adopted for perhaps several years.
TKP picked apart the various strands associated with this which ultimately led to the successful appeal decision. TKP carried out an assessment of need for this type of accommodation and also the current supply. This demonstrates not only the importance of consideration of the need, demand and supply (both current and future) of specialist accommodation for older people but the delivery of this information in a manner that Local Planning Authorities (and if necessary Inspector’s) can follow and understand alongside the wide ranging benefits that these types of development can offer.
TKP made use of the SHOP@ Toolkit methodology by HLIN (referenced in the government’s Planning Practice Guidance (PPG)) to assess need but adjusted this as it says you should.
The Inspector looked at the following matters in turn:
The PPG is clear that where there is no 5 Year Housing Land Supply, Council’s can count housing provided for older people, including residential institutions in Class C2, towards housing land supply. It goes on to explain at paragraph 16a that housing provided for older people should be counted against their housing requirement. Despite this guidance, the Council in its Housing Land Supply update(HLS report) considered C2 uses on the basis of bedspaces, and utilised a methodology for calculating the equivalent number of C3 housing units from C2 units based on an average household occupancy of 1.87 adults.
The Inspector noted that:
“I find that the nature of the proposed units would be more akin to a small dwelling with a separate kitchen and living area and mostly two bedrooms. Notwithstanding that the proposal would fall within Class C2, given that each unit would be capable of accommodating a small household rather than just a single occupant occupying a room within a more traditional residential care home setting, I consider that it would be reasonable to count this as a dwelling rather than on the basis of bedspaces. For this reason, it seems to me that the proposed development would contribute 100 residential units, albeit of a specialist nature, to the Council’s housing land supply. “
The Inspector went even further in summarising the contribution to housing supply in considering the benefits that this type of accommodation would have such as offering choice for those wanting to downsize / rightsize.
“Whilst I accept that on its own, the provision of general housing would not be sufficient to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. I do nevertheless find that the contribution to housing supply including the freeing up of housing stock, are factors that together carry substantial weight in the balance.”
Housing Need and Demand
The government’s National Planning Policy Framework sets out at paragraph 61 that local planning authorities should undertake a local housing needs assessment, conducted using the standard method in national planning guidance. Paragraph 62 goes on to require that it assess the housing needs of different groups including for older people. The PPG sets out that the need to provide housing for older people is critical in view of the rising numbers in the overall population.
The Council placed specialist housing including sheltered and extra care housing for older persons into Class C3 of the Use Classes Order. It therefore, made a separate assessment of the need for care home bedspaces, considered to fall within Class C2. Crucially it is important to point out that the Council considered sheltered housing and extra care as falling within the same category with no distinctions made for the differing levels of care and support provided in each. This was a point that TKP made to the LPA and Inspector. This approach carried through into the predicted numbers of each category of housing / care accommodation that is required at present and in the future in the District as evidenced through the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).
The SHMA estimated a requirement for an additional 1,319 specialist housing units in the District between 2013 and 2033. This equates to an annual need of 66 dwellings. This is based on existing provision of 102 affordable extra care units and 1,490 sheltered housing units, both market and affordable.
The Inspector agreed with TKP that:
“Notwithstanding the inconsistency between the use classes applied to this type of housing, as extra care housing, I consider the scheme would contribute to the need for 1,319 specialist housing units as set out in the SHMA, rather than making a contribution to the need for C2 units, which is based on bedspaces. In providing 100 extra care units it would make a sizeable contribution to the overall need set out within the SHMA.”
TKP put forward evidence from recent planning applications on the number of recent permissions for any care developments in the District. Evidence provided by the Council on delivery of specialist accommodation units equated to around 15 per cent of the overall SHMA requirement for specialist housing to 2033. With the addition of a further 100 units (arising from this proposal), this would bring the figure to around 23 per cent at around halfway into the SHMA period. The Inspector noted the benefit of the addition of the proposed 100 units and the shortfall in the number of developments currently coming forward within the District to meet the need. Furthermore, the Inspector accepted the evidence from TKP that there is no current extra care provision within Edenbridge. In addition, reference was made to another TKP Appeal decision where the Inspector considered a site in West Malling (Ref 3202040) where development sites are heavily constrained by Green Belt designations, thereby limiting opportunities for larger developments of this nature.
Paragraphs 28 through to 63 on the housing needs of older people in the Inspector’s decision are important reading for those interested in such need with implications for other areas.
Instead of the more standard figure of 4.5% of over 75s potentially requiring this type of accommodation TKP argued that this figure should be adjusted to 8 per cent, thereby considering those aged between 65 and 74 years as well as aspirations and social policy. There was a degree of acceptance by the Inspector of this approach.
On this matter overall the Inspector concluded that:
“the proposed development would make a significant contribution to meeting the overall need for specialist housing within the District for which the current development plan does not make adequate provision for and for which the emerging local plan, whilst supportive, would be unlikely to deliver for some time yet.”
Impact on local healthcare
With the Department of Health and Social Care’s recent White Paper recognising the importance of good quality housing with care for older people on the local health and care economy, it is also useful to note the Inspector’s approach to the Council’s assertion that such a new development would increase pressure on local infrastructure such as healthcare resources.
“Whilst this is noted, the intention is to draw people mainly from the local area who would already be registered for such services. Furthermore, with improved wellbeing and the provision of on-site consulting rooms for visiting health care practitioners to administer treatments, it is not expected to give rise to significant additional pressure on existing services.”
The Inspector concluded, after considering all TKP’s evidence put forward on housing and care provision in the District that:
“I find that, on balance, based on existing supply including that in the pipeline, the population and its projected increase within older year groups, there is currently an existing and significant shortfall and a growing need for this type of housing. The proposed development would make a significant contribution towards meeting this requirement.”
The full Planning Inspectorate decision, dated 2 November 2021, can found here (opens new window).
Tetlow King Planning are proud to sponsor the Housing LIN’s planning portal. Here you can access a range of free tools and resources on Planning Homes and Communities for Older People.
Should you have any planning related questions regarding a site you would like to promote or develop which has come / may come across similar challenges, please do not hesitate to contact John Sneddon for an informal discussion on how TKP could assist you in navigating the planning process.