Integrated Retirement Communities delivery aided by recent planning appeal decision

Mark Slater
Mark Slater
Managing Director, West Waddy Archadia

A recent appeal decision overturning the Council’s putative reasons for refusing an integrated retirement (IRC) community references many of the benefits of this type of housing to create a cohesive argument outweighing substantial harm to the Green Belt. This decision will assist providers and developers of IRCs to overcome common policy hurdles when making future planning applications. This article explores the key points in this important decision for the sector.


The application, the subject of the appeal, was for the development of a retirement care village in Class C2 comprising housing with care, communal health, well-being and leisure facilities; and C3 affordable dwellings (comprising up to 30 per cent on-site provision), public open space, play provision, landscaping, car parking, access and associated development of land in Bottisham, Cambridgeshire. The application was submitted in outline form with all matters reserved except for access.

The appeal (APP/V0510/W/23/3324141) (opens new window) was made against the local District Council based on non-determination. The appeal was accompanied by the reasons the Council would have refused permission if it had been able to do so.

Use Class

The never-ending debate as to where an Integrated Retirement Community falls within the planning use class order is perhaps one step closer to being decided through this appeal decision. The inspector states:

‘Whilst it falls within the C2 use class, extra care housing is distinctly different from other forms of older people’s accommodation such as care homes and retirement housing.’

In my view, this is a significant acknowledgement that whilst IRCs are different from care homes in that they provide self-contained accommodation, they still fall within the C2 use class bracket. Many policy definitions of integrated retirement communities class them as C3 which has impacts on CIL and affordable housing requirements. The assessment by the inspector that this scheme is a C2 development is significant in making the case for IRCs falling in the C2 bracket.


National Planning Practice Guidance (opens new window) (NPPG) states that the need to provide housing for older people is critical. In relation to housing needs, the inspector found there was an ‘acute’ need for this type of development. Part of the reason for this lack of supply was down to viability in comparison to general needs housing.

‘The evidence supports the appellant’s assertion that retirement housing schemes are generally less viable than general needs housing due to a range of factors, such as higher build costs.’

Owing to the communal facilities required in integrated retirement communities such as lounges, dining facilities, hairdressing, activity rooms etc. the build cost per unit in an integrated retirement community when compared to general needs housing is significantly more. Many IRCs will also provide larger apartments when compared to general needs housing which again pushes up costs. The acknowledgement of the Inspector of this viability issue is a considerable point of reference for future applications of this nature.

Local Plan Policies and Allocations

The Inspector also makes a damning assessment of the state of the Local Plan in terms of its allocation for C2 uses and planning policies encouraging the supply of IRCs to address the ‘acute’ need previously identified.

‘Paragraph 63 of the Framework emphasises the importance of planning policies in ensuring that housing needs for different groups, including housing-with care for older people, are addressed. However, no sites are allocated specifically for C2 use in the Local Plan. That the predicted supply of extra care housing falls significantly below the identified need and is anticipated to do so in the future, is partly a result of a distinct lack of robust local planning policies and site allocations to support this form of housing.’

The recent report Creating Homes We Want to Grow Old In; A 15-Point Plan from the Housing and Ageing Alliance (opens new window) identifies the need for Councils to assess the need for and then plan for the delivery of specialist housing as one of its points. This also follows on from the recent Irwin Mitchell/Knight Frank report (opens new window) which found that the majority of Councils do not have one of the two or neither. It is significant that the inspector identifies the lack of proper planning policies as a reason for the need being so high.

Added Value

One of the advantages of building housing for older people is the knock-on effect on the local housing market providing a greater opportunity for addressing underoccupancy. The inspector highlights this in his report.

‘The provision of up to 170 extra care units would be anticipated to release 113 existing housing units into the market. This would be due to future occupants of the extra care accommodation vacating existing properties, which are often under-occupied and larger family houses. These knock-on benefits attract significant weight in favour.’

The fact that this point is carrying ‘significant weight’ is extremely beneficial when developing future applications as I believe it adds strong backing to a longstanding point raised in the sector.

Another added value of this form of development is the employment it brings to the local area. Again, the inspector has picked up on this and given it significant weight.

‘The proposal would generate approximately 70 full-time equivalent jobs across a variety of roles such as medical care, social care, management and maintenance. These jobs would also provide opportunities for the residents of Bottisham. There would also be temporary jobs created through the construction phase. These considerations carry significant weight in favour of the scheme.’

This adds a further point of reference which can be applied to all integrated retirement community applications.

Planning Balance

What makes this case so significant is that the site is located within the Green Belt with the Inspector concluding that the appeal scheme ‘constitutes a form of inappropriate development in the Green Belt’. In order to overcome this conclusion, the benefits of the scheme would need to outweigh this.

In his decision, the inspector reviews the planning balance:

‘I find that the other considerations in this case clearly outweigh the harm that I have identified. Looking at the case as a whole, I consider that very special circumstances exist which justify the development in the Green Belt.’

The inspector has therefore found that the benefits of the IRC outweigh the harm caused to the Green Belt. The scheme is also in close proximity to a Grade II Listed Building and the inspector also found the benefits of the development outweighed the harm to the heritage asset when assessing the planning balance.

However, we must remember that this application is for outline permission and therefore the details of the design are still to come. This means that the Inspector has made his assessment purely on the proposal for an IRC and not a particular building. I consider that this makes a compelling case for integrated retirement communities across the country.


Many recent reports such as the Mayhew Report and Housing and Ageing Alliance’s 15 Point Plan reference the great need for this type of development. The ‘Older Persons Housing Task Force’ has also recently been set up with its objectives being:

‘to examine enablers to increased supply and improving the housing options for older people in later life, and to explore ways to unblock any challenges’.

This appeal case will assist the provision of IRCs and is a great advert of the significant benefits of this type of development.

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.

For more specifically about C2 and C3 use classes visit:


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