Heidi Allen MP's Amendment receives Ministerial approval

As you will know, I tabled an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which was debated in the Chamber on Tuesday 13 December. My amendment sought to increase the amount of suitable housing in new developments, for both the disabled and the elderly, a requirement not currently provided for anywhere in existing legislation.

This amendment required local planning authorities to “consider” the needs of elderly and disabled people when identifying strategic priorities for the development and use of their land.

This amendment would:

  • Support the policy guidance outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework;
  • Support the aim of halving the disability employment gap through the provision for independent living;
  • Reduce pressure on the social care sector and the NHS by providing more suitable accommodation for elderly people, keeping them safe in their homes for longer.

After lengthy debate in the Chamber, I am so pleased to announce that the Minister for Housing and Planning, Gavin Barwell has agreed to work with me to incorporate my amendment into the Bill as it progresses through the House.

This is a huge achievement, and one which will help so many people in the UK struggling to meet their housing needs.

I would also like to personally thank the charities and my fellow colleagues who supported this amendment.

You can watch my speech in the debate by following the link here, and you can read the full text below.

You can also read the blog published by Aspire here, and the article from the Royston Crow here.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I rise to speak for my amendments 24 and 25.

My Hon. Friends will know I am a passionate champion of the vulnerable and have often spoken on disability and social care issues. Today is no exception.

I doubt anyone in this House would disagree that safe, secure, affordable and appropriate housing is a basic requirement for everyone.

I also doubt many would disagree that today, we face an unprecedented housing challenge and when the supply of housing is tight, some are forced to make do with inappropriate housing.

In London, 90% of all new housing developments must meet building standards category 2 or accessible standards and 10% must be totally wheelchair friendly. This is fantastic and as it should be.

However, outside London, no similar legislation exists.

My amendment would require local planning authorities to “consider” the needs of elderly and disabled people when identifying strategic priorities for the development and use of their land.

It would support policy guidance on new developments as outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework. It would also support the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap by enabling independent living. 

Furthermore, this amendment would reduce pressure on the social care sector and NHS by providing more suitable accommodation for elderly people, keeping them safe in their homes for longer. This in itself is one of the biggest challenges this country currently faces.

The Government is tackling the housing challenge head on and I look forward to the imminent white paper. But as we rise to this challenge, we must not inadvertently replace it with a different one by failing to recognise the need for accessible housing.

My amendment seeks to safeguard against this.

With an ageing population and more people living longer with complex needs, the demand for accessible homes is set to increase at a rapid pace. 

By 2030, the number of people aged 65 and over will increase by 50%.

In the next 20 years, the number of disabled people is set to increase from 11 million to 15 million.

Estimates, and conservative estimates at that, show that 3 million more accessible homes will be needed by 2035. 

Today, we have 11.9 million disabled people in the UK, yet only 6% of the housing stock currently available provides the four bare minimum standards needed to allow a disabled person to visit, let alone live there.

The number of people aged 85 and over is expected to double in the next 23 years to over 3.4 million. Older people should be able to live safely and with dignity in good quality, warm and safe housing. We know that most older people want to retain their independence and stay in their home for as long as possible. Not only should we be actively supporting this, if we want to tackle the crisis in social care, we MUST support this.

The cost of hospitalisation and social care for older people who have suffered from hip fractures – most of which are caused by falls and which could be prevented through more suitable housing, is £2 billion a year. 

It doesn’t take a genius to see how much better this money could be spent in the NHS.

The impact this amendment could have is far-reaching. Research from charities such as Papworth Trust and Habinteg has shown that disabled people who have ‘a home that works for them’ are four times more likely to be in paid employment.

If we are as serious as I believe we are about halving the disability employment gap, we need to get serious about this amendment too.

Mr Speaker, I have highlighted the issues every member of this House knows we face and the impact that the lack of accessible housing is having and will continue to have on our economy, and more importantly our society.

My amendment poses no additional cost to Government. Indeed, it would save the Government and thus the taxpayer a huge sum. All it asks is that we put into law that which is already provided as guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework. All I am asking for is that planning authorities must “consider” the needs of the whole population.

What arguments against this amendment could there possibly be?

I do not accept this will place an additional burden on developers and thus cost to the consumer. The additional cost to make a home accessible from the outset is minimal, and having run my own manufacturing business, I know how powerful competitive necessity can be in driving costs out.

Some will argue that legislating from central Government will take power away from local authorities but my amendment does not remove any local power. 

National demographic changes are happening now. We need more accessible housing now. We have the opportunity to act – now.

Mr Speaker, this is how we make this country truly, a country that works for everyone.