Retirement living - meeting the housing needs for older people - is addressed in the plan-making provisions in the Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Guidance has been published for councils in England on preparing planning policies on housing for older and disabled people.

Type of accommodation

The market is diverse, including apartment developments in built up areas, retirement communities in a parkland setting, and cottages/ apartments in the new settlement at Chapelton.

There is increased activity by private sector developers, supplementing the sheltered housing operated by local authorities and housing associations. ARCO, a body representing the sector, was formed in 2012.

Although care homes are often co-located with retirement properties, the care home and retirement living markets are distinct, generally with different operators.

Some commentators prefer the term "senior living", which avoids focusing exclusively on people of retirement age. A recent planning appeal casereferred to projects catering for individuals in their fifties who are beginning to plan for retirement and are changing their work/ life balance in preparation for full time retirement. The Reporter noted the lack of a specific age definition in policy or guidance of what constitutes elderly.

Provision of care

In England, there is an on-going debate about whether retirement living developments are class C2 residential institutions (class 8 in Scotland) or class C3 dwellinghouses (in Scotland class 9 for houses, sui generis for flats).

This debate is not about the acceptability of the retirement living use; rather it's about whether affordable housing policies apply.

The Mayor of London recently decided that a minimum level of care of 2.5 hours weekly meant that the development would be class C3 dwellinghouses rather than class C2.

New use class?

The creation of a separate use class for retirement living could form part of any future review of the Scottish Use Classes Order. Although affordable housing policies tend to be applied more flexibly in Scotland, a separate use class could assist with site allocation and avoid the need for age restriction planning permission conditions.


Neil Collar