The number of elderly people in Britain is rising fast and it is one of the objectives of the planning system to ensure that facilities are available for their care. However, as a High Court ruling showed, they are not entitled to have their needs prioritised over those of other groups of vulnerable adults.
The case concerned a small residential home for the elderly, which had closed after receiving an ‘inadequate’ rating from the Care Quality Commission. The company that owned the facility wished to reopen it as a home for vulnerable adults, whether elderly or not, including those suffering from mental health or substance abuse problems, ex-offenders and those at risk of domestic violence.
The company successfully applied to the local authority to lift a condition attached to a 1982 planning permission that had restricted the facility’s use to that of an old people’s home. The council accepted that the home would be practically and economically unviable if that restriction remained in place and that it was imperative to open the facility to a more inclusive range of users.
A group of local residents lodged a judicial review challenge to that decision, pointing to the increasing demand for accommodation for the elderly in the area. The council itself had forecast that around 5,000 more older people would be living in its administrative area by 2026.
Dismissing the challenge, however, the Court found that, on a true interpretation of a local planning policy, it encouraged provision of specialist accommodation for a wide range of vulnerable adults, with older people being given no priority over others. The council’s planning committee was entitled to find that the valuable facility would not reopen unless the condition were lifted.
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