However, the attitude of certain planning authorities seems less forgivable. In refusing planning consent for a Guild Living development in Walton-on-Thames, Elmbridge council said that the scheme “would undermine the vitality and viability of town centre”. This seems to be a very narrow demographic that this development and others like it are typically targeting.
For a start, retirement starts for many at around 55 years of age and people who want to live in a town centre largely do so because there are things to do and see. Needless to say, shopping, eating and drinking out and consuming culture are high on their list of priorities.
Also, it’s a bit rich of planning authorities to talk about undermining “vitality and viability” when for decades most town centres effectively went to sleep as their shopping areas shut down for the night and office workers departed for the suburbs.
Surely having town centre residents who want to engage with what the location has to offer are the ideal residents? Yes, ‘retirement community’ is an insipid and uninspiring description (a re-brand is urgently needed), but it also doesn’t mean ‘care home’ and should not be confused as such. These developments can play a massive part in enabling a renaissance of town centres.
And whilst we may ponder what it is to be ‘old’, the demographics are undeniable: by 2050, it is projected that one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 years and over. Planners and policy makers need to embrace this.