How to get planning for a ‘Golden Years’ Home for mum and dad

Architect Garry Thomas, has been helping families provide new-build dwellings for elderly people, often getting planning for a golden years home for mum and dad in open-countryside sites. We share with you below how Garry helps clients overcome difficult planning challenges.

Before we set out how Garry has managed to help clients get planning permission for development to support the care of elderly relatives, we want to let you know… here are 3 simple questions that will help you to identify if you have planning potential on your land, then fill in the form to arrange your FREE call back.

If you can answer yes to any of these questions below, fill in the form to arrange a FREE call back with architect Garry Thomas. The call will last about 15mins and will help you identify if you have potential to get planning permission.

• Do you have a need to provide accommodation for an elderly relative?

• Do you have a site that could accommodate a 2-bedroom house?

• Is planning policy limiting your chances?

Getting planning permission for development to support the care of an elderly relative.

Working within this field is like opening a steam cooker. Not only is there huge need across the UK, the problem is set to get worse as the general population ages, and there is a massive undersupply of suitable ‘Golden Years’ homes for elderly folk. Planning departments don’t support the need to extend the quality of life and independent living or allow accommodation for suitable care arrangements to reduce the burden on the state or local authority care provision. In fact, the problem is so bad that it is in crisis and planners are indifferent to this problem.

That’s because personal circumstances are not a planning matter, cold hard planning policy trumps personal gain, and in that sense we see many planning applications fail because they don’t adopt Garry’s 3 simple methods to get these applications through the planning system.  

The first thing you notice when these applications fail is; people don’t elevate awareness of the critical need, allowing the application to be judged purely on planning policy – often getting a refusal under delegated powers before any elected councilors get anywhere near supporting your application.

“I am convinced that the time and effort that you put into your submission, together with the associated policy detail together with explanations swayed the meeting leading to an extremely close but nonetheless positive vote.” a recent Thomas Studio client informing the local councilor who got behind their application for a 2-bedroom care home for his elderly mother.

But crafting the perfect planning application takes experience, and making your submission a scheme that gets planning takes understanding as well as an architect who knows what they are doing.

Here are 3 ways that Garry has helped clients get planning permission for assisted living dwellings for elderly relatives.

ONE – Design – the project needs to be appealing, whilst we are aware that the burden of care for old people is not cheap, there is no planning department that would be willing to let awful building design go through the system just because your personal circumstances are a good news story.

Good design does not necessarily mean more expense, what it does mean is taking the time to understand the site and to create a building that fits in.

“Thank you once again for all of your (successful) efforts on our behalf – It’s not the taking part it’s the winning that counts,” a recent Thomas Studio client sending a thank you for getting planning permission for a 2 bed care home that was designed as a garden folly set within the grounds of an existing house with landscaped grounds.

TWO – The Back Story – the community will need to get behind the scheme, this often means appealing to friends and neighbours to write a suitable support letter, and to ensure they identify with your needs and capture this in writing, informing the planning officer and the local councilors of why this need should be granted planning approval.

Elected councilors will always go with the voters, particularly when they are seen to be championing a local campaign. During a recent care home application, we encouraged the church and other community groups to write in support of the elderly applicant. The applicant had supported the community and church for much of her active life, and it was important that they returned this favour when the time was right. On another occasion, we have even encouraged a letter to be written by the local GP.

GP’s fully understand the care burden need. There is plenty of robust data that supports extended independent adult living for as long as possible and confirms that the sooner old folk are institutionalised their quality of life deteriorates, their health suffers and they are a burden on the public purse for much longer periods of time. So it makes national economic sense to elevate this information in order to overrule clumsy local planning policy.

THREE – Planning Committee –  getting your application in front of a planning committee decision is most important. It is the councilors themselves that understand their communities, and despite the fact that we are told that planning policy takes lots of research time and investment and it’s important that it is upheld for the benefit of the community as a whole, the reality is most policy doesn’t fit the pattern of daily human life, and it is the elected councilors themselves that are best placed to interpret planning policy.

Getting your planning application to planning committee is a dark-art, we have had success in this area, but it is not easy. The main method is to get plenty of local support and with this public interest, there is a case to be made that the application should go to the planning committee.

Since we have had a number of successes in getting applications approved in open countryside locations at planning committee, the end result is always councilors finding ways to support the application and interpret planning policy wisely.

“you picked up the emphasis of our application whilst not over concerning yourself about policy like some of the members did,” says one of Thomas Studio clients writing to their local councilor after getting planning permission through at committee.

Not only did the local councilor find reasons to support the application they were very active in finding flaws in the planning officers summary report, this enables applications to be supported as other councilors can relate to these policy flaws in their own patch identifying the real human need.

When we look to what the biggest victory is with this type of application, it’s managing to get the right information published at the right time during the planning process, whilst at the same time getting decision makers to focus on the main issues. “The design is appropriate and enhances the whole setting of the existing building.” this is the response by a local councilor to an application that was located amongst mature trees within the grounds of an unregistered parkland and a large Victorian villa in rural Herefordshire.

Whilst we don’t consider Thomas Studio to be a care home guru, we do understand how to unlock planning permission on difficult sites. Our clients identify with this and we are often asked to consider odd locations for dwellings in open countryside, whilst they aren’t always possible the reality is if you follow the 3 points above you maximise your chances at unlocking the potential.