Housing Provision for the Elderly

Elderly couple

Care needs to be taken to ensure there are residences for older residents – and it is a particular issue for retiring farmers…

We have heard that the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) has called for a review of the provision of housing for older people.

Over past years, the number of bungalows being developed has fallen. However, it’s not only bungalows – traditionally the choice of older people – that are required. In its report, Housing for Older People the CLGC discusses the need for residential care and nursing homes.

There is a suggestion that the consultation draft revised NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) is seeking to address this issue. Like the current NPPF, the three objectives for achieving sustainable development include a ‘social’ element, requiring the planning system to “meet the [housing] needs of present and future generations”. However, the draft NPPF takes this a step further and responsibility is more explicitly transferred to individual local planning authorities and developers. It states that “the needs of groups with specific housing requirements” (paragraph 60) should be addressed, and “policies should identify the size, type and tenure of homes required…including but not limited to…older people…” (paragraph 62).

Better provision for the elderly

There are few Local Plans that currently plan positively for the provision of homes for the elderly, instead they rely on the market to find appropriate sites and then propose a development. The CLGC report and draft NPPF represent an opportune time to bring this matter to the fore, to advocate greater engagement between the populace, local authorities and care homes providers, as well as market housing developers, who could incorporate better provision for the elderly within their house types.

Rural issues

In a more specific area, attention has been drawn to the problems for retired or retiring farmers. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has highlighted the difficulty in obtaining planning permission for agricultural workers’ dwellings. It points out that it is difficult for a retiring farmer to vacate an existing occupancy tied home and relocate to one that is sold at open market rates.

As such, it is difficult to commit to allowing the next generation of farmers to take over without them having access to an agricultural workers’ dwelling. Succession is vital to the long-term viability of a farm, so it makes sense to have the retiring farmer close at hand to provide advice and support. The CLA says this means there is a need for change within the NPPF, particularly paragraph 55.

Here at Apex Planning Consultants we frequently work on such rural planning projects and we have helped numerous farmers over the years to obtain planning permission for agricultural worker dwellings. It is certainly not easy to do this, and despite the NPPF having replaced the oft stated helpful advice contained in PSS7, it generally remains the case that to obtain permission one must demonstrate a functional need and financial stability to construct and maintain the house, and ensure the viability of the farm enterprise.

The bar is often set high, depending on the local planning authority considering the application, but with the appropriate justification this test can be satisfied. This does not mean however that a review of paragraph 55 would not be welcome, in order to help farmers avoid having to endure a difficult process, while still retaining necessary controls.

With this in mind, it is encouraging to see that the draft NPPF includes provision (paragraph 81) to help address this matter. While it only supports the development of ‘isolated homes’ in specific circumstances, there is allowance for this to apply where there is an “essential need for a rural worker, including those taking majority control of a farm business, to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside”.

However, we think even more can be done. For this reason, we also support the forthcoming change to the General Permitted Development Order, which on 6 April 2018 will include provision under Part 3, Class Q for up to five dwelling houses to be created from the conversion of agricultural buildings; this is an increase from the current maximum of three dwellings.

If you would like to discuss the detailed provisions of the updated Class Q, we would be happy to hear from you. And if you would like to discuss your own planning project with us, or just find out more about what we do, please continue to browse the website or drop us an email to: info@apexplanning.co.uk without obligation.