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Connell C - LB Mar 2022

Planning is barrier to seniors housing growth

Research by property consultancy Knight Frank and law firm Irwin Mitchell reveals that over a third (36%) of local authorities in England don’t have clear policies in place to support housing for seniors.

The new survey builds on research carried out in 2017 and 2020, which ranked local authorities between ‘A’ and ‘D’ according to their approach to seniors housing provision within their local plans. Local authorities with an ‘A’ rating have clear policies indicating details of the required number of dwellings/care home beds and how this will be achieved together with specific site allocations for such development, whereas those with a ‘D’ rating had neither clear policies nor site allocation. 

This year’s survey results found that out of 326 local authorities in England 76 (23.3%) were graded A, 96 (29.4%) were graded B, 36 (11.0%) were graded C and a 118 (36.2%) were graded D.

Over the five years in which this research has been carried out, the percentage of grade A local authorities in England that have adopted specific planning policies and site allocations addressing seniors housing has improved– increasing from 9.7% in 2017 to 23.3% and the percentage of local authorities graded a D has also reduced – from 62% to 36.2%.

The sector is receiving support from central government, with a recently announced cross-departmental task force on housing for older people championing the need for sector-specific legislation, clarity in the planning system, and funding for affordable housing. The National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance now also acknowledge the importance of seniors housing.

Nicola Gooch, planning partner at Irwin Mitchell said : “Whilst the situation is clearly improving, it is still the case that planning policies are still putting a brake on new development in the sector. We need all local authorities to take a pro-active approach if we are to unlock the full potential of seniors housing in England. However, policy change alone will not be enough unless it is also accompanied by sufficient resourcing to enable local planning authorities to devote time and attention to understanding both the demographic changes that are coming our way, the diversity of needs within our ageing population and how best to plan for those needs”

Knight Frank and Irwin Mitchell have also updated their research to reveal the 15 opportunity areas ripe for development of seniors housing across England. Using a matrix looking at the planning scores and local economic/demographic statistics the research distinguished areas where policy and demographics suggest there is potential for seniors housing to develop, as well as those areas where local factors are creating a barrier to progress.

Particularly of interest are the opportunities for private seniors housing accommodation in London and the Southeast and for affordable seniors housing accommodation in London. The top five development opportunity areas for affordable seniors housing accommodation are in the capital.

Lauren Harwood, head of seniors housing consultancy, at Knight Frank said: “This year’s survey is released against a backdrop of an increasingly difficult development environment; with nutrient and water neutrality issues, insufficient local government resources and local plan failures all making it harder than ever to bring forward new seniors housing schemes. Rising operational and build costs, as well as an increasingly competitive land market have added another layer of complexity.

“As a result, there is currently still a huge supply and demand imbalance of senior housing in England, which is widening amidst a growing and ageing population. It is vital therefore that we increase the provision of seniors housing. With that in mind, it is crucial that developers understand where the opportunities are, and how they can access these to help meet the needs of our seniors.”

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