The planning system requires more clarity to help unblock the unmet need for specialist housing for older people, a lords select committee has been told.

Gareth Lyon, head of policy and communications at the Associated Retirement Community Operators, told the Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision yesterday (Tuesday 6 November) that there was ‘inadequate housing’ for older generations.

The committee was gathering evidence about measures of housing need in the National Planning Policy Framework, the balance between central government regulation and local government autonomy, downsizing, specialist housing for older people and more integrated active communities.

Lyon said provision in the UK was ‘well short’ of other countries, such as Australia and USA, and that changes to the planning system were needed.

‘Only 11% of councils in the country have policies in place to supply older people’s housing despite growing need for it. The needs of the social care sector should be taken into account when assessing housing need,’ he said.

During the 50-minute hearing, Lyon pointed out that across government departments there are eight different terms to describe the retirement community sector, while the planning system does not distinguish between the range of options available.

He said: ‘There is a disconnect in the system that needs to be addressed. Planning tends to be seen at district or borough tier level whereas most of the benefits our communities deliver is at a county level where they benefit the social care system and health system. We would welcome more coordination within government.’

However, it was pointed out that giving councils more freedom in planning could result in some providing women’s refuges, hostels and provision for the homeless, while a neighbouring authorities may not.