Retirement Housing Q & A DCP Section 7.2

Retirement housing may be defined as accommodation specifically designed for the active elderly. Most schemes are characterised by a resident warden service and communal maintenance of grounds. Schemes are more often located within existing urban areas although schemes in rural areas can also be found. A typical development consists of around 40 units but can range from ten or so apartments linked to an existing nursing home to much larger retirement communities of between 100 and 300 units. Sheltered housing schemes initiated by local authorities or housing associations raise much the same planning issues as private sector developments. Residential and nursing homes for the elderly are dealt with in (11.3).

Q & A    7.2/10

You have reported cases on a number of occasions relating to whether or not affordable housing should be provided as part of retirement flat developments. I seem to recall that conclusions on this question have gone either way. Can you direct me to any of these decisions and comment on any pattern that is emerging?

A large number of such cases are summarised in Development Control Practice at (7.3331) which demonstrate a variety of decisions based on the characteristics of each particular scheme in the context of planning policies and local need. A recent decision in Watford reported in Planning 20 June p17 demonstrated what is perhaps the commoner finding that affordable housing is not appropriate in the case of retirement or sheltered housing schemes. Taking a general view of the matter, it is extremely unsatisfactory that the development control system has not been able to provide a consistent and precise policy basis across the country enabling developers and local authorities to estimate affordable housing requirements with any certainty.


I have to disagree with your point that most sheltered housing appeals have found that affordable housing is not appropriate. Provided there is an up to date housing plan policy on affordable housing, which is underpinned by sufficient evidence of housing need and having taken account of all of the criteria in paragraph 10 of Circular 6/98 there is no reason why a council cannot defend its position on appeal.

A careful analysis of appeal cases where there has been dispute on this point shows that in a clear majority of decisions an inspector has determined that retirement housing schemes proposed justify exemption from an affordable housing requirement. As you say, this does not take away from the fact that decision makers are quite entitled to seek such provision in the terms of the Circular and local policies, as shown in McCarthy & Stone Developments Ltd v Stockport MBC [2000], but considerations such as lack of viability deriving from physical or management problems are commonly overriding.

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