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President's Blog January 2018

Date: 6/1/2018

As we enter into another new year it gives us the opportunity to consider the issues that are going to be of major concern to the planning community.

On that basis, and certainly to my mind perhaps as I have a January birthday looming, the most pertinent current issue is how we, society as a whole, can appropriately address and respond to the issues associated with our aging population.

Some initial research show that the most up-to-date projections (from the Office for National Statistics in July 2017) tell us that nationally our population is set to grow from its current 65.6 million (which is the largest it's ever been) to over 74 million people by 2039. Whilst net immigration currently obviously adds an element to that total, the fact is that the UK population is in general getting older with 18% of our current population aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged over 85.

Having regard to the overall balance of our population this profile potentially identifies significant trends and issues. Whilst 14.2% of the population in 1976 were aged 65 and over, that figure is now projected to rise (through the current 18%) up to 23.9% by 2036 and then to further increase to 24.7% by 2046. Conversely the number of children in the population is projected to decline from the 24.5% that it was in 1976, through the current level of 18.9%, to an anticipated 17.7% of the overall population by 2046.

Whilst all that is informative the crux of the matter is what all this could eventually mean for us at a local level. In 1996 only a handful of places (mostly those located in the south of England) had what could be considered to be an 'elderly' population with 25% of their total local population being aged 65 and over. However by 2036 it is estimated that nationally the majority of all local authorities will then be faced with the situation whereby over 25% of their overall population are aged 65 and over (again with many of the highest estimates being for places located in southern England and with West Somerset Council interestingly having the highest projected proportion at 33.3%).

The applicable projections also indicate that as the existing population does indeed live longer that by 2036, very few local authorities will not then have at least 4% of their total population aged 85 and over. Again it's some of the southern English authorities with the highest estimated proportions of such very elderly residents with areas such as Rother, East Devon and Dorset projected to be amongst the highest.

Local indications in this regard can also potentially give rise to significant issues. Those for my own district indicate that whilst the general population is growing overall (with an overall 14.3% increase being projected between 2016 and 2036) the fact is that 22% of that current district population is already aged over 65 and that figure is anticipated to increase to 31% by 2039. The more detailed analysis underpinning that estimate goes on to indicate that our districts percentage of people aged between 65 and 74 will therefore go up by a challenging 35% and the percentage aged over 75 will increase by a rather astonishing 126%.

So what does all that actually mean for us as Planners because there are clearly going to be major financial, social and environmental implications for the future operation and wellbeing of our communities.

National planning policy now requires every Local Planning Authority to start to actively plan to meet the needs of all our differing populations. For housing that potentially means that the demand for all appropriate forms of housing is going to continue to increase and especially for age suitable housing. It is considered that access to suitable, appropriately flexible, forms of housing will allow the majority of that aging population to continue to positively contribute and thereby potentially reducing related costs to the NHS. However serious consideration now needs to be given to 'housing adaptability' as today's planning permissions are going to be the homes of the future.

For employment it could mean that the success of our economy will increasingly be aligned to the enthusiasm and productivity of our aging workforce. Therefore it will be vital to encourage older people to remain in work and to support related adaptations in our workplaces and the ways that we all want to work. There will be an obvious related need for continual re-skilling and opportunities for lifelong learning throughout peoples' careers.

There will also be related impacts on the ways in which places function, how our health and education systems operate and how local authority services are going to be provided to communities.

In conclusion whilst a lot of this stuff may appear to be someway off, and the remit of us slightly older doom-mongers, it is worth considering that, as a result of the current local authority budget round, it already looks like all our Council Tax bills are going to be increasing this year by an additional 3% in order to support the immediate need for additional local social care funding!

Steve Ingram, President 2017/18

Steve Ingram President 17_18_web.jpg


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