Plans to create a series of apartment developments for Lancashire’s growing elderly population are likely to meet less than half the expected demand for the properties.
Lancashire County Council is aiming to oversee the building of 1,000 so-called “extra care” units by 2025 – with at least one development in each of the county’s 12 districts.
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But figures presented to a meeting of the authority’s health scrutiny committee reveal an estimated need for 2,117 individual flats by the middle of the next decade. Currently, 350 apartments have either been completed or are due to be finished within the next year.
The schemes provide round-the-clock access to care while maintaining and encouraging the independence of the residents living in the developments. All of the apartments are self-contained, but are built around communal areas and services like hairdressers, which can also be open to the general public.
The meeting heard that the policy of providing one development in every district was just “a starting point” – and that the target for 1,000 flats was ambitious, but realistic.
“We’ve started working…to understand the demand for extra care across the county,” Craig Frost, from Lancashire County Council’s policy and commissioning unit, said.
“When we move forward, the number in each district will become crucial and there will have to be much more thought given [to where the schemes are located].”
The Primrose Gardens extra care scheme is due to open shortly in Chorley, providing accommodation and support for 65 residents. Developments are also under way in Preston and Fleetwood, both of which will be operated by housing associations.
Two extra care schemes are already operating in West Lancashire and Rossendale.
The extra care policy was first proposed in Lancashire back in 2014, but members were told that uncertainty over the impact of welfare reforms had dissuaded developers from investing in the schemes.
Individuals will either own or rent their apartments – which could be purpose-built or a refurbishment of existing stock. The county council’s supported housing strategy stresses the need to provide options for people from “all income levels”.
Unlike earlier developments under the extra care banner, County Hall is not planning on providing the cash for future schemes, except in “exceptional circumstances” – but the authority may try to encourage landlords and district councils by supplying the land on which they can be built.
The committee heard that availability of land was one of the key challenges in delivering the new developments – and some members called for district councils to make extra care schemes a condition of granting permission for wider housebuilding in their areas.
“I look at all the development along the A6 up to Garstang and I wonder how many of those [could be helping] to look after elderly people,” committee member County Coun Eddie Pope said.
A report presented to members claims that the cost of providing care to somebody in an apartment scheme is, on average, £33 per week less than if they were placed in a traditional residential home. Last year, the authority supported over 3,200 people in long-term residential care at an average gross weekly cost of £515 each.