14 Jun 2016
The recently published ONS 2014-based population projections show that by 2039 a quarter of England’s population will be over 65, whilst the number of people aged over 85 is projected to more than double to just over 3 million. These are startling figures which will create a number of challenges for the future – not least in relation to the provision of housing.Looking more closely at the data, this ageing profile starkly contrasts with the projected growth in other age groups. The projections indicate a 10% growth in people aged 17 and under by 2039 and a 6% growth in working age people. This is compared with a 47% increase in those aged between 65 and 84 and a 137% growth in those people aged over 85.Table 1: Projected changes by age-group
Source: 2014-based ONS Population Projections
NLP has undertaken analysis of how this ageing population picture varies across the different local authorities in England.
By 2039, West Somerset will have a higher percentage of older persons than any other local authority in England, with 42% of the population over the age of 65. This is closely followed by Rother (41%), North Norfolk (40%), West Devon (40%) and East Dorset (39%). The fact that three of these authorities are in the South West, and all are in coastal areas away from major conurbations, reflects the spatial dimension to England’s ageing population.
Two (out of three) of the same South West authorities are also included in the top five with the highest percentage of over-85s.Table 2: Highest Percentage of 85+ (by 2039) by English Local Planning Authority
Local Planning Authority
Population of Over 85s
% of total population aged
85 by 2039
Source: 2014-based ONS Population Projections
Almost 10% of the population of each of these top five local authorities is expected to be over the age of 85 by 2039. This is close to double the projected national percentage of 5%.
What are the implications?
These patterns of ageing population create challenges for the future – particularly for the planning system. The increase in older people nationally, with particular concentrations in specific locations will place greater emphasis on the need for the planning system to consider how best to:
assess the future housing needs of older people – in line with the requirements of the NPPF and guidance in PPG;
contribute to the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities;
provide sustainable access to key services and facilities (particularly health care); and
deliver a housing choice for older people.
Specifically in relation to the first and last points – the main emphasis in local plan- making is given to assessing the objectively assessed need for housing but often the specific requirement emerging for specialist older person’s accommodation is not then fully investigated. Moving forward, understanding these issues, considering the different housing types needed by older people and responding to these needs will become critical.Building standard types of housing is necessary but this will not solve this crisis – we need to make sure we provide different forms of housing that meet the needs of all sections of society. Whilst specialist older person’s housing won’t be what every older person chooses – evidence suggests that currently older people are not even benefiting from such a choice.A report by the Think-Tank DEMOS in 2013 described the chronic undersupply of housing for older people as“the UK’s next housing crisis”. It stated that only 2% of the UK’s housing stock was dedicated retirement housing – far less than in most other countries with comparable populations of older people. Similar themes are also referenced in the recently published HAPPI 3 Report (June 2016) - which reported that the number of homes built specifically for older people each year has fallen from 30,000 in the 1980s to fewer than 8,000 in recent years.The evidence clearly suggests we have problem. We are failing to deliver housing for older people. In addition to the obvious social benefits of providing such housing, there are other lost opportunities too. Provision of specialist older person’s housing can help ‘free-up’ previously under-occupied family housing, thereby encouraging more fluidity within the wider housing market and helping to ensure that the needs of the wider population can be better met by existing stock. In addition, such development also delivers significant economic benefits and investment which is being lost as a result of a failure to ensure adequate supply.The publication of this latest projection data underlines the urgency with which the housing needs of older people should be taken into account. The planning system will remain the key delivery mechanism for this future housing. The sooner it can start to proactively consider and deal with these issues the better.
NLP has re-launched its CAREpacity toolkit which aims to provide a helping hand to developers seeking to deliver housing for older people.
It includes a range of tools designed to aid developers in:Identifying future development opportunities;
Demonstrating the need for development;
Quantifying and clearly communicating development benefits;
Assessing the economic viability of development.
For more information on CAREpacity please see our flyer or contact NLP directly.