Many of us realise to use a cliché "we are not getting any younger".  That is equally true of the population generally.  The number of people aged 75 and over is projected by the Scottish Government to increase by 23% between 2010 and 2020 and by a startling 82% between 2010 and 2035.  The projections also show significant increases equally in the population age between 60 to 74.  In 2010 23% of the population was aged 60 and over.  By 2035 the comparable figure is projected to be 30%.

This raises many issues some of which have already caused significant difficulties – for example the Government's proposals in relation to pensions in the public sector.  Health Boards and Local Authorities are also concerned about the effects of an ageing population on their budgets. 

Specifically however an ageing population must raise issues for the planning system, though the issues do not seem to have been generally recognised to date.  Scottish Planning Policy deals with a number of topics including housing land and housing supply.  In paragraph 89 it recognises that Development Plans should address "the housing needs of sections of the community".  However there is little detail about what that means in practise.  Certainly there is no reference to the ageing population.

Prior to Christmas the Scottish Government published a new strategy document entitled "Age, Home and Community: A Strategy for Housing for Scotland's Older People: 2012/2021".  This document is not specifically a planning document – indeed it has not been issued under the auspices of Planning Ministers.  However a number of the issues it addresses are likely to be relevant in a planning context. 

Chapter 5 deals with the issue of existing housing and the need to maintain that and to adapt it to make that existing housing relevant to the needs of an ageing population.  The chapter addressed a number of issues which face the elderly and also recognises that existing facilities (such as sheltered housing) will have to adapt to take account of changing needs. Chapter 5 also discusses the issues which have to be addressed including appropriate location and the cost of the support. 

There is also a chapter on new build housing which recognises that there is a need for new housing in Scotland which is accessible and adaptable and meets the needs of older people.  The chapter (Chapter 7) acknowledges that while some older people will wish to downsize some will still want a reasonably sized property with spare bedrooms and flexibility to allow friends and relatives to visit.  Being able to keep possessions (such as furniture) from a previous home is beneficial to the living environment for an older person or couple.  It is acknowledged that locating housing in appropriate places allows older people to live at home longer and also reduces the need for specific adaptations.  While the document talks about a mix of housing types and integration, it recognises that there is a need for a range of new types of housing to increase choice and support independent living for older people.  Amongst the examples referred to are new build housing with care and support, co-housing and retirement villages.  A number of case studies are referred to and there is a specific commitment to encouraging the development of new models of housing with care and support in all tenures "which help older people to maintain independent living in the community".

Whilst Scottish Planning Policy does refer to new housing developments being well integrated with public transport and well located and equally talks about a "well integrated mix of land uses including well designed homes of different types and tenures", that document does not properly or directly recognise the needs of a significant and growing element of our population.  It seems likely that if the terms of the new strategy document are to be met both Development Plans and local planning authorities are going to have to pay greater heed to the needs of this element of the population than they appear to have done certainly in policy terms in the past.

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