NEWS:

The creation of neighbourhoods for all ages has been met with limited success, and progress could be hindered further by the Localism Bill and spending cuts, the International Longevity Centre – UK argues today.

In a new think piece, Localism and Neighbourhoods for all ages, the think tank argues that provisions in the Localism Bill which remove some planning bureaucracy could potentially allow more rapid development of age-friendly neighbourhoods and that the Bill could allow communities to respond directly to their needs, including providing for an ageing population.

However, the think piece also argues that older people’s issues have historically been marginalised in community development, and that any benefits of the Localism Bill in creating communities reflective of an older demographic might not materialise without specific protection and development of services, homes and communities for an ageing population. Communities may actually become less age-friendly without specific protection.

To counteract the potential obstacles and facilitate the potential benefits that the Localism Bill could bring, the report makes a series of recommendations.

The think piece calls on the Government to

  • Include specific provision and guidance for planning for an ageing society within the National Planning Framework.
  • Ensure that the Localism Bill includes greater safeguards to guarantee that the rights of marginalised or minority populations to access a full range of amenities and services locally are protected.
  • Expand the equality impact assessment of the Localism Bill to include an assessment of the proposed changes on all marginalised groups including older people, and respond accordingly.
  • Bind Local Authorities to a set of minimum standards for the provision of accessible, relevant and timely information to older people on local developments
  • Introduce a presumption in favour of development to construct more Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods for all ages

The report also recommends that researchers should better evidence the case for neighbourhoods for all and include more robust and specific (and evidenced based) recommendations as to what constitutes a “Lifetime Neighbourhood” and more generally a neighbourhood for all ages.

Baroness Greengross, ILC-UK Chief Executive said:
The outlook for neighbourhoods that can support people of all ages after the Spending Review appears ostensibly bleak. Whilst we are enthusiastic about the concept of localism, we must ensure that the impact of the Localism Bill and spending cuts doesn’t mean that the idea of creating neighbourhoods for all ages sinks before it can swim.”

Dr Dylan Kneale, Senior Researcher at ILC-UK added:
“Yes, localism offers opportunity to ensure that community design responds to needs of all groups. But it also risks creating an ‘X-factor’ school of local politics, where social issues and concerns that are not popular do not receive due consideration. For localism to work alongside Big Society, we must ensure that the voice of minority groups are not drowned out by the majority.

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  1. Localism and Neighbourhoods for all ages examines the development and progression of communities for an ageing population through ‘Lifetime Neighbourhoods’ and other measures, in the context of recent policy changes including the Spending Review and the Localism Bill.
     
  2. Lifetime Neighbourhoods were adopted into Department of Communities and Local Government policy in 2007/8, although have virtually disappeared as a concept and ideology from national policy since then.
     
  3. On November 29th 2010, ILC-UK held an event sponsored by Audley, Anchor, and Arup that questioned the impact of the move towards Localism on the homes and communities of older people. This ILC-UK think piece broadly summarises the debate about building homes and communities for the future in light of the December 2010 Localism Bill, giving additional context and wider discussion to the issues of neighbourhoods for all ages. It also includes a transcript from the event itself as an appendix.
     
  4. ILC-UK would like to thank Audley, Anchor and Arup for giving us the opportunity to present our thoughts on these issues. Special thanks go to our speaker, Professor Elizabeth Burton (University of Warwick) and to our discussants: Jane Ashcroft (Anchor); Nick Sanderson (Audley); Sue Adams (Care and Repair England); Gemma Bradshaw, (Age UK); and Julian Dobson (NS +). Thanks are also due to all those who attended the event who contributed to a lively debate.

DEFINITIONS

  • A neighbourhood for all ages and more specifically a ‘Lifetime neighbourhood’ is one which offers everyone the best possible chance of health, wellbeing, and social, economic and civic engagement regardless of age.
  • In the early 1990s the Joseph Rowntree Foundation issued its first set of 16 point-criteria for a ‘Lifetime Home’ – a home that could support different lifecourse stages from early adulthood and family building, to empty nesters, to older age (Hanson 2001)

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