We often read about the problems experienced by first-time buyers, but the problems at the other end of the age spectrum are just as acute. As a consequence of the recently proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), it seems inevitable that our current shortcomings are on a path to worsening rather than abating.

Stuart Crickett

Stuart Crickett

The proposals include some positive commentary on later living, introducing that “particular regard is given to retirement housing, housing-with-care and care homes”. While this is encouraging, it is hard to see how sufficient supply will be facilitated to materialise through our embattled planning system.

An alarming set of changes have been proposed, including the suggestion that local plans no longer need to be justified; enhanced rhetoric on ‘brownfield first’; and the explicit proposal that green-belt boundaries need not be reviewed and altered if this is the only means of meeting minimum objectively assessed housing needs.

Not all accommodation for older people is suited to existing urban areas and brownfield sites. For example, integrated retirement communities can include larger amounts of onsite amenity space and care facilities, which require larger sites at lower densities compared with general housing developments. Under the proposed amendments, such sites will become much harder to deliver.

The NPPF should be encouraging, if not requiring, an objective identification of later-living needs through a local plan review. Importantly, this should specifically include an understanding of the types of care needed.

Local plans should also be expected to proactively allocate a sufficient number and type of sites – in the right locations. Finally, all local plans should include at least one policy supporting provision across all typologies.

It is important the system remains plan-led but not plan-absolute. Local plans currently cover a minimum of 15 years, but changes in economic, social and demographic circumstances rarely have regard for aligning durations.

Stuart Crickett is a director at Boyer (part of Leaders Romans Group)