Planners can’t ignore growing need for care homes

You rightly draw attention to the lack of provision of care homes and beds and highlight both the economic pressures driving smaller homes to close, and the high costs of constructing new ones.

But your article missed another crucial aspect: our planning system simply is not planning for the scale of provision needed. This is, and will continue to be, a further obstacle to building new care homes.

Everyone knows we are not building enough houses. A subset of this is that we are not building enough care homes. We have 11.6 million people over 65, and we will have 20 million over 60 by 2030. Eight hundred thousand people currently suffer from dementia, and that is expected to double by 2040.

We should be planning now for the huge need for growth in the care home sector. Our country remains wedded to a plan-led development control system, but most councils are simply not allocating land for care homes in their local plans.

We researched a random sample of the local plans from 50 of the 326 district and unitary authorities in the country. Only seven (14%) had allocated land for specialist housing for the elderly and only three of these (6%) referred specifically to care homes. Just one council (2%) had assessed the need (for 950 rooms) for care home bed space in its district.

The country’s demographics are not going to change. The coming bulge in our elderly population is entirely foreseeable. It can and should be planned for. At the moment, our planners are not doing so.

Carl Dyer, partner, head of planning, Irwin Mitchell

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