Planning System Still Missing Our Ageing Population

April 15, 2011 12:02 pm Published by

The UK’s population is ageing at a rapid rate. In 2007 we passed a demographic tipping point in the UK’s history, with the number of people over 65 surpassing the number of children under 16. These changes are placing increasing pressure on the UK’s housing, health and social care systems.

A new report by Rosie Roome, Principal Planner at Tetlow King Planning, investigates the role of planning in meeting the needs of our ageing population.

This report analyses the issues in delivering Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in England, as an alternative to the traditional options of residential care and sheltered housing. It concludes that the current planning system has not proved fit for purpose in addressing our ageing demographics. As providers continue to advance new forms of housing and care, planning authorities have been slow to develop and implement planning policies and development management practice which promote appropriate models and reflect changing demand.

Relatively new in the UK, CCRCs are seen as a positive way of meeting the housing and care needs of older people and are expected to become increasingly common. Only about 50 that meet the full definition have been completed in the UK to date.

The report analyses a representative sample of 24 CCRC proposals across England involving a total of 33 planning applications going back to 1988. 42% of these applications were determined either by a planning inspector or by the Secretary of State. The key findings were as follows:

  • 85% of the applications were in apparent conflict with development plan policies, including three quarters of those ultimately granted planning approval;
  • Apart from conflict with the development plan, the other key development management issues experienced include the sustainability and accessibility of the site, use class (C2 residential institution or C3 housing?), demonstration of need and employment related issues;
  • There has been a marked increase in planning applications for CCRCs over the past 5 to 7 years;
  • In the authorities where a CCRC has been proposed only 38% had any sort of approved development plan policies encouraging provision for the older population; most of these policies relating to sheltered housing or care homes rather than innovative forms of provision such as CCRC; and
  • In the same authorities where a CCRC has been proposed only 13% of the more recent emerging core strategies include a specific policy encouraging housing and care proposals tailored to the needs of the older population.

The report inter alia calls for:

  • Clearer and more positive planning guidance relating to the provision of housing and care for older people within the new National Planning Policy framework.;
  • Clearer and more positive policies within development plan documents and other linked strategies prepared by local authorities;
  • The assembly of a stronger evidence base of demand and need to underpin such policies;
  • The identification of potential spatial locations for CCRC via development plan documents and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments;
  • More collaborative working between the planning, housing, health and social care sectors to support the delivery of such strategies; and
  • A more sophisticated understanding of the distinctive development management issues associated with the CCRC in the context of the Use Classes Order.

The report entitled Planning and Delivering Continuing Care Retirement Communities was formally launched at the national Extra Care and Continuing Care Retirement Communities Conference 2011 held in Bristol on Thursday 14 April 2011.

Hard copies are available on request from