It has been estimated that between now and 2041 the number of people living over 85 will double to over 3.2 million, raising concerns about the need for more senior living accommodation. The government recently published new guidance regarding housing for older and disabled people which you can find here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/housing-for-older-and-disabled-people.

The national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) is intended to provide local authorities with guidance on planning policies on housing for older and disable people.  The guidance sets out the different types of specialist housing designed to meet the needs of older people:

  • Age-restricted general market housing: This type of housing is generally for people aged 55 and over and the active elderly. It may include some shared amenities such as communal gardens, but does not include support or care services.
  • Retirement living or sheltered housing: This usually consists of purpose-built flats or bungalows with limited communal facilities such as a lounge, laundry room and guest room. It does not generally provide care services, but provides some support to enable residents to live independently. This can include 24 hour on-site assistance (alarm) and a warden or house manager.
  • Extra care housing or housing-with-care: This usually consists of purpose-built or adapted flats or bungalows with a medium to high level of care available if required, through an onsite care agency registered through the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Residents are able to live independently with 24 hour access to support services and staff, and meals are also available. There are often extensive communal areas, such as space to socialise or a wellbeing centre. In some cases, these developments are known as retirement communities or villages - the intention is for residents to benefit from varying levels of care as time progresses.
  • Residential care homes and nursing homes: These have individual rooms within a residential building and provide a high level of care meeting all activities of daily living. They do not usually include support services for independent living. This type of housing can also include dementia care homes.

It will be for the local planning authorities to consider which use class the development will fall under.  The PPG states that when determining whether a development for specialist housing for older people falls within C2 (Residential Institutions) or C3 (Dwellinghouse) of the Use Classes Order, consideration could be given to the level of care and scale of communal facilities provided.  Developers will pay close attention to the use class status, it is important to determine whether or not change of use planning permission will be required or whether the change of use will fall under the permitted development rights.  Such considerations will impact on the costs and viability of the development.

The guidance acknowledges the need to accommodate the growing and inevitable demand for senior living accommodation and it seeks to consolidate of various existing policies and earlier guidance, which will prove to be beneficial to developers and operators specialising the retirement living sector, however, the general consensus is that the guidance does lack sufficient details on affordable housing provision or assisted living and no indication of the types of developer contributions expected from developers.