It was really pleasing to see the British Property Federation (opens new window) (BPF) getting behind the older persons’ sector and pushing for planning reform.
This follows on from some great work already completed by Housing LIN and ARCO (opens new window) in pushing the government to alter planning policy to better reflect the demographic changes and demands resulting from the UK.
With the recently announced Older People’s Housing Task Force in mind, and future planning having been under consideration in a Levelling Up Homes and Communities Committee Inquiry (opens new window), the BPF’s first recommendation is a new use class called CR2. This has been put forward by the sector for at least a decade and seems to fall on deaf ears, yet on the day-to-day, it still is the cause of much confusion in planning applications with Local Authorities often required to alter the wording of application names and introducing spurious conditions to cover off the murky grey area that is the C2/C3 debate. Our view is that this needs to happen to provide clarity and make it easier for all involved in making applications for older persons’ housing.
The second BPF recommendation is that all local plans should allocate a proportion of new housing to older people’s housing. This also makes a lot of sense and builds on the work of the Mayhew Report. Whilst calculating the proportion, this does not necessarily have to be additional, as it is worth noting that every move in older persons’ housing frees up a previous house, which can improve supply in the general needs market. This recommendation could, of course, be a moot point given the proposal to scrap planning targets at the local level altogether, but given that this is currently up in the air, the recommendation should be considered in the debate.
While planning reform is much needed, it needs to sit alongside increased resource allocation within Local Authorities to process and determine applications. It is a source of frustration for many in the industry, with Housing 21 (opens new window) recently citing this as one reason they have recently undertaken acquisitions to meet their growth ambitions.
In my view, the planning system is getting ever more complicated, and with the increasing expertise needed to deal with the various reports required to accompany a planning submission, determination periods are only going to extend. We also think the implications of biodiversity net gain policies coming quickly down the track could exacerbate this situation.
Overall, providing clarity around use class and setting housing targets will help to bring older people’s housing to the forefront of the minds hard-pressed Local Authority Planning Teams; however, this needs to be coupled with increased awareness and resource allocation to really drive the number of homes needed to ensure healthy and happy lives for our older generations.
WWA are proud to sponsor Housing LIN’s online planning portal, Planning Homes and Communities for Older People, where you can find a range of useful resources on national guidance, strategies and tools and examples of local planning practice for an ageing population.
And for more about the Task Force and to respond to its call for evidence by 18 September 2023, visit the DLUHC webpage here (opens new window).