Law firm Pinsent Masons said its calculations showed that McCarthy & Stone and Churchill had increased their volume of planning applications for schemes by 162 per cent between 2010 and 2015, but questioned whether the increase would be sustainable without further government help.
Pinsent Masons said it believed its research was reflective of wider market trends in England. The figures only looked at raw numbers of applications in relation to sites, and do not reflect unit numbers or permissions granted.
Planning partner Rebecca Warren said there was a strong argument for the creation of a new planning use class for retirement housing and supported "extra care" housing for the elderly to encourage more developers into the sector and ensure that the sector was not squeezed out by higher-profile markets.
"It would not be difficult for the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order to be amended to include a separate class for retirement and extra care housing yet the impact could be extensive," she said.
"Local authorities should be required to assess housing need with a separate use class rather than [see] elderly provision become lost in the melee of general housing need figures.
"The impetus would then be on the local authorities to find sites specifically with the elderly in mind and this will help alleviate the competition from the general housing market."
Warren added that councils should look to create housing zones with retirement and extra care as the focus, depending on local demographic needs, and that allowing elderly people to downsize into new homes had a clear role to play in freeing up appropriate properties for younger families.
Over the summer, Churchill Retirement’s chairman and chief executive Spencer McCarthy called on ministers to waive affordable housing commitments to allow developers to build more retirement homes more quickly.
A report by the International Longevity Centre, published earlier this year, said that demand for retirement housing could outstrip supply by more than 375,000 homes by the middle of this century.