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We write on behalf of our clients The ExtraCare Charitable Trust in response to the current Preferred Options Local Plan Consultation.
The ExtraCare Charitable Trust develops specialist accommodation schemes and retirement villages for older people. It is a charity which provides an alternative to traditional care homes, enabling older people to enjoy healthy, active and independent lifestyles in their later years. Care and support is provided within individuals own homes by an onsite care team. This allows for independence and flexibility, whilst still enabling a high level of care to be provided. There are a range of onsite facilities including restaurant or cafe bar, convenience shop, hairdresser, laundry, gym and a greenhouse. A range of social activities are also available.
The Trust supports around 4,400 older people in 17 housing schemes and 14 villages. These are available to older people in their local area for affordable rent, shared ownership and leasehold sale. It should be noted that the model of provision that The Trust provide is distinct from standard housing. Their developments are a fully integrated model containing specialist housing with care and other supporting facilities.
The Trust are looking to develop a retirement village in the Northern Gateway, although the exact location is yet to be determined. The proposal currently consists of a mixed tenure retirement community comprising around 250 extra care units, including 60% affordable housing. It will also include the traditional range of onsite facilities such as a cafe, convenience shop, hairdresser, gym etc.
Older People's Housing Needs
The UK faces a rapidly ageing population and meeting the housing and care needs of the older generations is now a key policy goal in planning and social care policy. National Planning Policy recognises the importance of providing a spectrum of housing choices for older people. This is referred to in paragraphs 50 and 159 of the NPPF. The definition of 'Older People' in the glossary states:
"People over retirement age, including the active, newly-retired through to the very frail elderly, whose housing needs can encompass accessible, adaptable general needs housing for those looking to downsize from family housing and the full range of retirement and specialised housing for those with support or care needs". (emphasis added)
Essex County Council has an Independent Living Programme which is designed to provide housing for people over the age of 55 whose current home no longer meets their needs for example because of social isolation, the desire to downsize, or the need to access care and support. The programme was established in Autumn 2014 to increase the pace and quantity of independent living units being delivered across the County.
The Independent Living Market Position Statement 2015-2025 acknowledges a need for 2,500 additional places with care and support in Essex. The Statement encourages:
- Prevention, providing service solutions to help people retain independence
- Tailored care at home
- Personalisation of care and services
- Enablement and reablement
- Community activity
- Home support services
These are all areas which the ExtraCare Charitable Trust can provide for in its villages.
Figure 12, copied below shows the population structure in 2014 compared to 2025. There is going to be a huge growth in over 70s in the lifetime of the local plan, with a corresponding proportional decline in the younger age groups. The population aged 65+ is projected to increase 25% by 2024 across Essex and 26% in Colchester. As a consequence of this, a three-fold increase is expected in the numbers of older or physically disabled people living in residential settings by 2071.
Source: Figure 12 of the Essex County Council Independent Living Market Position Statement
The Essex County Council Commissioning Strategy (September 2014) expresses the importance of delivering additional extra care housing as an alternative to residential care. The issue of premature residential care occupation can be expensive and counterproductive to good care and ongoing health. Prior to this the Essex Housing for People with Additional Needs Strategy 2013-2016 identified a need for 322 extra care units in Colchester. Against a supply of 56 units there was an overall shortfall of 266 extra care units over the 3 year period.
The Housing Learning and Improvement Network has a Strategic Housing for Older People Analysis Tool. This analysis shows that for Colchester based on current demand and supply, there is an under supply of all the types of care. This is set out in the table below.
In our opinion enhanced sheltered housing and extra care housing are both very similar, offering a form of housing with care, and therefore it can be said that currently there is an undersupply in Colchester of 565 extra care units.
This need will only increase as the population ages. The need is estimated to increase as follows:
Against a current supply of 56 housing with care units, there is a very significant need to increase the provision specifically for older people.
As acknowledged in the SHMA, and at paragraph 7.53 of the draft plan, there is a need in Colchester for an additional 94 sheltered and extra care housing units to be provided each year. In addition Essex County Council, as the provider of social services in the borough, has set a target for Colchester to deliver 205 additional units of specialist accommodation to enable older people to live as independently as possible. This is intended to reduce the demand for residential/nursing home care which is a considerably more expensive way of meeting the needs of older people and can unnecessarily restrict independence within this age group.
The benefits of the provision of extra care housing are numerous. In particular the release of under occupied family housing, employment benefits, and wider health and social care implications. Investment in onsite care and support services can help to relieve pressure on publically funded hospitals and GP services in the locality. Research indicates that extra care schemes result in considerable cost savings to local authority care budgets whilst providing residents with a high level of care and wellbeing in specialist accommodation.
We support the recognition in the draft Local Plan of the needs for older persons and specialist housing however it is not considered that this is strong or specific enough, and nor does it follow into policy text to enable a range of accommodation types to be delivered. With the SHMA acknowledging that there is expected to be a 60.6% growth in those aged 65 and over, it is not sufficient to expect all these housing needs to come forward from general housing. Requiring developers to demonstrate how their homes will be adaptable to meeting the long term needs of older residents as set out in policy DM10 and DM12 is a step in the right direction, however this is far from sufficient.
Both the NPPF and the National Strategy for Housing an Ageing Population encourage choice and diversity in housing for older people. Making homes adaptable for those who want to stay in their current home is appropriate for some, however there will be others who wish to move, and the retirement community as proposed here is a popular choice for many. It enables care to be received in an individuals' own home, with an onsite care team, and a range of social opportunities to combat the increasing problem of social isolation in older age. There is an onsite restaurant meaning residents have the option of a cooked dinner if they are unable to do this for themselves as well as the opportunity to socialise at mealtimes. There are a range of social activities including cinema nights, dancing groups, tea parties as well as a whole range of activities organised by the staff and which are well attended and valued by many of the residents.
The provision of lifetime homes as set out in polices DM10 and DM12 will not facilitate the diversity of housing choices required for older people in Colchester. Nor will it meet the requirement in the SHMA for 94 units of sheltered and extra care accommodation to be provided each year or the requirement from Essex County Council for 205 units of extra care accommodation. For traditional housebuilders incorporating lifetime homes will incur additional costs beyond standard housetypes and as such only the minimum numbers are likely to be delivered.
Overall we consider that the plan needs to say far more about the ageing population and about older persons housing with care in particular. The plan is too optimistic about meeting all the older people's housing and care needs on the sites allocated for housing. However if a site is allocated for housing, standard market housing will come forward. Providers of extra care housing cannot compete with traditional housebuilders for land because of the additional non saleable land associated with a retirement village (communal facilities and area for care staff). As such housebuilders can pay a higher premium for allocated housing land.
We therefore strongly consider that the recognised need for extra care accommodation needs to be directly included within policy. Specifically we would like to see the Council allocate land for a retirement village within the Northern Gateway.
We understand initial discussions have taken place with the Council to identify suitable land for a retirement village. At present this is looking to be in Zone 1 - the Strategic Employment Area, although it may be in Zone 2. The Trust would require around 2.2 - 2.5 hectares of land allocated for age specific housing. This will allow for the development of around 250 mixed tenure extra care units including 60% affordable housing. The proposal will provide a range of employment opportunities for care staff, management, chefs and other support staff. The proposal will therefore meet the wider strategic economic and employment aims of the proposed Northern Gateway. However the proposal will not meet the specifics of Policy NC1, Zone 1 as drafted, and so we strongly encourage the council to continue to work positively with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust to identify and allocate land for a retirement village.