Editor: Housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement of ‘radical reform’ to the country’s antiquated planning system must be celebrated (‘Jenrick to announce radical planning shake-up’)
Designating land according to three zones, ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protection’, will provide much-needed clarity for developers, with promises of ‘permission in principle’ in dedicated renewal areas providing certainty to help accelerate delivery where it is needed most.
However, amid this excitement and desire to ‘build, build, build’, we must not forget about our ageing population, an issue that concurrent governments and their planning policies have sadly not managed to address.
There are 12 million over-65s in the UK, a figure that is expected to climb by 8.6 million by 2066. Yet around half of local authorities still do not have a specific plan for elderly housing. You can see the ticking time bomb that we are sitting on. Local authorities are not entirely to blame; they must take direction from above.
As part of the reforms, one hopes to see specific policies designed to ensure that retirement housing is factored into the reform mix with specific allocations that must be adhered to.
These later-living communities do not just benefit those who live in them. Pressure is taken off local health services as it has been proved repeatedly that those living there lead healthier, more active lives and need fewer trips to GPs and hospitals.
Jenrick’s plans are expected to stipulate that developers contribute more to the cost of hospitals, which is excellent. However, why not also reduce the need for people to go there in the first place? The independent retirement living model with integrated care could provide government savings of up £3,500 per person per year, at a time when the NHS is more stretched than ever.
This is coupled with significant local employment creation and the fact that every retirement unit built ultimately frees up a larger home for those who actually need the extra space. It is a win-win situation and something we should be striving for, particularly when we compare ourselves with overseas counterparts who are leaps ahead in terms of ensuring their elderly are in fit-for-purpose accommodation. So Mr Jenrick, do not forget about our elderly.
Cormac Henderson, chief executive, National Property Trade