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Ageing well in London

Ageing well in London

Charlotte Walker 11 Jul 2024
Lichfield’s second edition of ‘Solutions to an Age Old Problem’ (‘SOAP2’) and the report provides a refreshed view of how local plans in England address older people’s housing needs.
SOAP2 finds that there are currently 10.4m over 65s in England and this is projected to rise to 14.2m by 2041; as the fastest growing age group nationally in the last decade, the need for and availability of the right types of housing will be a growing focus for local planning authorities. Furthermore, understanding what housing might best be suited to these different needs also requires an understanding of health, as this will be a key factor influencing how much support and care an individual might need. Based on the 2021 census data, over 57.7% of over 65s reported that they are in good health and the second largest tenure nationally is affordable rented housing - over 800,000 older households. Drawing upon Lichfield’s SAOP2, this blog focuses how specialist housing that meets identified local needs can support older people’s health and their ability to age well in London.
What is the picture in London?
Whilst London continues to be the youngest region – with just 12% of its population being over 65 in 2021 – over 65s still comprise well over a million people in the capital and represent an important element of the capital’s housing market. In addition, Londoners aged 60 and over make up the fastest-growing demographic in the capital and the number of Londoners aged 65+ is forecast to rise by 30% by 2030.
Mayor’s action plan[1] to make London more age-friendly is committed to focusing on increasing older Londoners’ access to housing that is affordable and meets their needs. Affordability of housing is a huge issue in London and it can force older people out of areas where they want to live and may have lived for a very long time. Age UK report that this has a massive bearing on an individual’s quality of life, health and wellbeing[2]. Some older people live with relatives from younger generations, either by choice or out of necessity and for financial reasons. Looking at London overall, the proportion of over 70s living in multigenerational households is significantly higher at 24% than the UK average of 15%.

Appleby Blue Almshouse in Bermondsey, London – a case study to learn from?
Appleby Blue Almshouse in Bermondsey, London is run by United St Saviour’s Charity and comprises 57 self-contained homes (Class C3 use) that are all for social rent and specifically designed for over 55s who want to be active and part of a community in the city. Completed in 2023, it rethinks the way solely affordable housing for older people can be designed to support health and wellbeing – and now it is shortlisted for the Housing Design Awards 2024[3].

Why is it successful?

Appleby Blue Almshouse:

  • Supports the local community and reduces social isolation - shared rooms on the ground and first floor support both active and sociable uses. The Garden Room, cookery school, craft room and lounge front the high street and can be used by residents and the wider community.

  • Connects people with nature - homes are arranged a courtyard garden and feature semi-private spaces within glazed deck access galleries to create a sense of communality. Large sliding screens open to the courtyard garden and generous benches and planters outside each apartment allow residents to sit with a friend or neighbour.

  • Meets health needs - although no care is directly provided as part of the residence, residents have the ability to arrange for external care to come on site.
SOAP2 highlights the importance of recognising that older people will still likely want to remain integrated within their local area and live as close as possible to their friends, family and existing communities. Appleby Blue Almshouse successfully supports social and health needs amongst Southwark’s older population, encourages people to be independent for longer, and allows older people to remain within Bermondsey.
Looking forward
As our population continues to age, the importance of the planning system in ensuring that the housing needs of older people are addressed is only increasing. Specialist and well-designed affordable housing for older people is just one focus for local authorities who will ultimately need to consider how they assess varied needs through their evidence. For London, Appleby Blue Almshouse is an excellent example of how we can design and plan for the future needs of our ageing population.




Digging deeper: how understanding archaeological potential can save time and money
The UK is rich in archaeology. Across the country countless unassuming fields have unearthed precious evidence of previous human activity. From prehistoric tools, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age hillforts, Roman villas, Anglo-Saxon hoards, deserted medieval villages, castles, burials and so much more. While widespread, archaeology is a finite resource that can be disturbed or destroyed by building development and environmental changes. For this reason it is protected by UK legislation, national and local policy, and guidance. 
Given this level of statutory and regulatory protection it’s not surprising that archaeology can have a big impact on a commercially sensitive development site; handling it wrong can end up being rather expensive! So, what aspects of a site’s archaeology is it important to be aware of? 

Assessing need 

Any archaeological remains within a site, both those that are already known and still unknown, will be considered to be heritage assets; either designated (assets of national or international significance) or non-designated (assets of regional or local significance). These assets are protected under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and/or the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
With this protection for archaeology in mind, it is important for developers to understand whether a site is likely to contain any archaeological remains - or its ‘archaeological potential’ - as early as possible. Finding out that your site contains significant archaeological remains after a masterplan has been drawn up, can result in costly amendments and delays. Likewise, having an accurate understanding of the need for archaeological surveys or excavation allows for project budgets and timescales to be drawn up with confidence.
But, when starting with an empty field or car park, many people will wonder how on earth you are meant to guess whether a site is likely to contain archaeological remains or not, let alone understand what they might be and how important they are. By its very nature, the presence of buried archaeology is usually unknown and this requires the archaeological potential of a site to be calculated, initially through the preparation of an archaeological Desk-Based Assessment (often shortened to DBA). 
This is where the importance of fully understanding the factors that influence archaeological potential is critical. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ published ‘Standard and guidance for historic environment desk-based assessment’ represents the industry standard. It defines the purpose of the DBA as “an assessment of the potential for heritage assets to survive within the area of study.” This sentence highlights how integral it is that archaeological potential is judged based on an awareness of archaeological survival. The two should not be separated. But first we need to understand how each are defined.

Defining archaeological potential and archaeological survival 

Archaeological potential - is first assessed by considering what is known about the archaeology of the area, mainly how many and what kind of archaeological remains have been recorded within the development site and surrounding area. In other words, if your site is next to a Roman camp, the potential for archaeological remains dating from this period is likely to be high. 
Archaeological survival - considers what factors may have affected the survival of archaeological remains within the site. This includes environmental factors, such as the geological makeup of the site, the presence of water, soil acidity and any historic environmental changes, whether natural or man-made. It also considers how the historic uses and previous buildings on the site may have damaged or completely destroyed archaeological remains. 
The ultimate purpose of a DBA is to estimate the potential for archaeology to exist within a development site - quantified as very low to very high. This needs to understand what is known about archaeology in the vicinity and consider this in the light of archaeological survival on the site. For instance, the archaeological potential of a site may be calculated as very high, when based on the known archaeological context of the area alone. However, if it previously contained a building or had been subject to intensive mechanised ploughing, the chance of archaeology surviving would be reduced and the overall potential considered to be low or moderate. Likewise, the archaeological potential of a site may appear to be low, based on a lack of findings in the surrounding area, but certain environmental conditions may mean there is high potential for organic (palaeo-environmental) remains to be preserved within the site. 
To illustrate this better, a few of Lichfields’ recent project examples are described below. 

Barry Waterfront 

We prepared the archaeological DBA for a new educational building located on Barry Waterfront. While the report found that the coastal and inland areas of Barry have produced archaeological finds dating from the Mesolithic period onwards, our research into the changing shape of the coast and uses of the site led us to conclude that there was a very low potential for archaeology. By carrying out historic map regression and corroborating this with documentary sources, we established that the site formed part of a man-made island, created during the late-19th century construction of Barry Docks, a process which linked the mainland with Barry Island. Our desk-based research also took us further as we then turned our attention to ground investigations from a nearby site. These revealed that the made-ground extended to a depth of 16m. 
Through our careful analysis of archaeological survival, we were able to recommend that no archaeological investigations were required within the site, in turn reducing project fees and timescales significantly. 

Eagle Quarter, Derby 

We prepared a DBA to assess the archaeological potential of a large brownfield site in the city centre of Derby. The site is located at the southern edge of the old medieval city and archaeological remains had already been found within parts of it. Based on the recorded archaeological context alone, this would have led us to conclude there was high potential for archaeology. But when considering the factors that would have affected archaeological survival, the picture completely shifted. The site contained an existing four storey building and basement carpark, the construction of which would have destroyed any upper layers of archaeology. But it was not as straightforward as this. The site was located on a former gravel terrace of the River Derwent, meaning there was high potential for the site to contain palaeo-environmental remains, i.e. animal bones and flora/pollen. Such remains are important as they can give archaeological insights into past environments and how our ancestors interacted with them. 
Lichfields was able to advise that, other than confirming the environmental evidence, archaeological excavation was not necessary. 

The takeaway 

Dealing inappropriately with on-site archaeology can be expensive and time-consuming. If archaeological potential is not understood early on, this can wreak havoc on project timescales and rack up hefty fees. At Lichfields we always make sure that our archaeology reports create a thorough picture of archaeological potential that is sufficiently informed by an awareness of archaeological survival. This enables us to advise on the best mitigation strategies and avoids unnecessary costs on projects, while preserving our unique heritage for generations to come. 
If you would like help determining the archaeological potential of a site please get in contact, as we would be delighted to assist.