Concern over supply of housing for older people in Northumberland after 32% increase in older population identified

Concerns have been expressed as to whether Northumberland’s Local Plan meets the housing needs of the county’s growing older population.

The examination of the key document, which will guide future development in the county, has continued this week, with planning inspector Susan Heywood seeking to decide whether the plan is sound and legal.

On Thursday February 27, the final hearing session addressed whether the needs of older people will be met, given one of the county council’s assessments identified a 32% increase in the older population.

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Ellen Morton, of Banks Property, said: “There needs to be some policy mechanism that will provide bungalows throughout the plan period.”

Planning officer Andrea King pointed out that one of the housing policies specifically supports bungalows, adding: “It’s about flexibility in the plan.”

The inspector suggested that the policies don’t prevent bungalows being developed, but Ms Morton said that they don’t prevent bungalows not coming forward either.

Samuel Kenny, of Persimmon Homes, added: “This plan relies on development which is already committed. There are a few allocations towards the middle and and end of the plan, which would be hinged upon to deliver this need.

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“There’s not enough allocations at the back end to meet in essence what is the biggest problem.”

Ms King said that the plan, which will be backed by the council’s extra care and supported housing strategy, ‘aims to address the need across the whole plan period’ from 2016 to 2036.

The inspector seemed more concerned that despite the identified need for older people, the council had decided not to require the optional higher standards for adaptability and accessibility on new homes.

Zoe Charge, from the authority, said that the plan had to be deliverable as well as aspirational, needing to balance competing pressures, including affordable housing and contributions to schools, healthcare and open space.

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Here the developers were on the council’s side, with Chris Martin, representing Gleeson and Dysart, saying: “My clients are concerned about viability and these standards would have quite an effect on their ability to bring forward some of their sites.”

However, the inspector said: “I’m concerned there’s a soundness issue here.”