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Are we Really Planning for Healthcare Growth?

Ian Anderson


Phone +44 203 296 2283

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Ian Anderson, Senior Director, Planning and Development Consultancy, Healthcare 
Healthcare, be it residential care or otherwise, is and will be, an increasingly important aspect of development across the country as we advance through the 21st century. 

Beyond Brexit

Beyond Brexit, delivering ‘homes for all’ is the Government’s priority 1,2 and 3. This is perhaps understandable, with the paucity of provision estimating a need to delivery between 225,000-275,000 homes per year simply to tackle historic under-supply and address future needs. 

The National Planning Response

To force this issue, the rebooted National Planning Policy Framework 2019 (NPPF) now includes a ‘housing delivery test’ for local authorities which measures performance and delivery, with penalties for those who under-perform. But what about healthcare?

Planning Policy

Whist there is plenty in the NPPF on the need to ‘plan for growth’ and create sustainable, healthy and inclusive communities, there is, in fact, very little guidance on the need for provision of healthcare, either stand alone, or as part of wider mixed-use proposals. This ranges from heath care facilities, to residential and non-residential institutions’ alongside care for the elderly, infirm and disabled. The NPPF simply notes that there should be ‘an appropriate mix’ to meet all sectors of society with only a single reference to retirement living. 

Planning for the positive growth of the healthcare community is therefore left to local development documents and plans to set out both overall strategy and provision.

The challenge here is twofold:

  • Firstly, despite decades of trying, we still do not have national coverage of up to date development plans. 
  • Secondly, and more pertinently, even when there is a plan to refer to, it will usually prioritise housing, employment and a great many other, often higher value uses, above the provision of social and healthcare development.

A Question of Use Class

Too many authorities also remain befuddled by healthcare, particularly the distinction between C2 (residential institutions) and C3 (residential) Use Classes and where retirement/care/extra care sit within these definitions. 

Too often this interpretation is sadly left to planning appeals and even the Courts to determine. This adds cost, delay and uncertainty to development proposals. This failure to deal appropriately with health and care provision is exacerbated by emerging planning documents which do not distinguish between the needs for housing and more specialist, targeted accommodation.

It is vitally important, with this absence of national planning recognition, dichotomy in interpretation and a continuing failure to address healthcare adequately in local planning documents, that all those involved in the healthcare sector push the need to prioritise the importance of healthcare as part of emerging plans, through representations and where appropriate, through the Plan Examination process. 

Only when this is done and healthcare is widely recognised as a provision-led KPI in a local development plan can we truly say we are ‘planning for growth’ within the heath care sector.

If you have a project you would like to discuss, please do get in touch with me.