Letter: Court judgment threatens delivery of extra care housing

I write in response to the article published on Planning Resource on 3 August about the Rectory Homes case in Oxfordshire. This decision by Mr Justice Holgate, upholding an appeal refusal of a Class C2 extra care scheme, has serious implications for the future delivery of this much-needed type of specialist accommodation, which threatens to reduce the choice available to vulnerable older people.

The issue of whether such schemes fall within Class C2 or C3 of the Use Classes Order has been the subject of debate between extra care providers and many local authorities for years, often resulting in legal opinions, appeals, and challenges. Central to this debate, of course, is the provision of affordable housing and the community infrastructure levy (CIL), and the impact these requirements have on viability.

The need to provide an adequate supply of specialist accommodation for older people is becoming increasingly important given our ageing population.

This was recently very much recognised by the minister for care, during the current pandemic when she stated: “Retirement and extra care housing developments across the country – whatever their size, or whether private or not-for-profit – are playing a vital role in protecting the most vulnerable in our country.”

Extra care schemes bring very considerable benefits to the residents themselves, to the wider community and the economy. What could be better than meeting both the housing and care needs of older people in one place, as an alternative to either the traditional care home or continuing to reside in a house that is no longer suitable, with all the worries and possibly loneliness that comes with it?

Providers of extra care accommodation will now need to look very carefully at the wording of the relevant development plan policy in assessing viability and may no longer be able to compete with other residential providers.

Would an extra care provider be able to compete with, say, a conventional developer of apartments when it has to provide approximately 30 per cent non-saleable space?

Now is the time for local planning authorities to consider very carefully, as new local plans emerge, whether it is good planning to expect the same contributions from ‘retirement housing’, in all its forms, and then run the risk of such essential accommodation not coming forward .

Yours faithfully,

John Montgomery FRICS MRTPI
Planning advisor to the Retirement Housing Group

Planning's coverage of the Rectory Homes ruling can be found here.

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