This month saw the biggest change to the planning system in nearly 6 years.
The Government published a revised version of the (NPPF) and supporting Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). It’s essentially the rule book by which every Council should follow when determining a planning application or producing a Local Plan. For those of us who get excited by planning policy this is a big deal, we’d been trying to work out the release date for some time and getting in line to try and be one of the first to see it.
So what does this brave new world of planning look like for age friendly housing? Well, while there is greater emphasis on 'place making' - achieving well-designed attractive places that are safe, inclusive, accessible and promote health and wellbeing, like a slightly disappointing sequel, it’s all very familiar, but not quite as good as the original.
Both the original and revised NPPF tells local authorities to calculate the level of need for retirement housing and care. The difference now is that the original NPPF asked local authorities to ‘address’ this need in their Local Plan policies, whereas the revised NPPF asks for this need to be ‘assessed and reflected’ in the policies to deliver this need.
This may sound like semantics, but in planning these changes to wording matter and it is a lower threshold for local authorities to pass when producing their Local Plans.
The wheels are not about to come off delivery as a result of this, in part because as an industry we’ve not made the most of the previous policy levers in place previously, but also because the lower level Planning Practice Guidance remains the same (which encourages local authorities to set out bespoke policies for the sector).
It would have been great to have seen this beefed up or the wording in the NPPF remain the same, but there continues to be an opportunity here to try and boost the supply of age friendly housing and care. And we are hopeful of more detailed guidance on planning for housing for our ageing population being published this year.
However, my view is that older person care and accommodation requires a helping hand now in planning terms to help developers acquire sites, otherwise they will be out bid too often by those delivering general market schemes. This means Local Plans need to allocate specific sites, set targets for this type of unit for regeneration areas and bespoke policies to enable their delivery.
Many Local Plans have grasped this opportunity and seek to deliver this, but others have not reached these heights.
When a local authority reviews their Local Plan there are many opportunities to get policies for our sector of the highest quality. Get involved in the consultation process or speak to your local planning policy officer.
Now is the time to shout out about the benefits of proactive planning policies in Local Plans and push for these to be included.A big push from the sector and becoming more visible in the plan-making process by taking advantage of the existing policy means that bad reviews won’t matter to the box office takings for the sector.
To view the NPPF and a range of other useful resources on planning and housing for older people curated by the Housing LIN, visit: housinglin.org.uk/Topics/browse/Planning/