Written evidence submitted by Lifestory Group [FPS 116]


About Lifestory Group

Lifestorybrings together a passionate team of people with a wealth of experience in creating quality homes with a dedication to listening to and understanding customers.  


Lifestory has been created by the merger of three property developers: Anthology, Pegasus and Renaissance. Together, Lifestory creates homes and serves customers at every stage of their life across England.   From first time buyers through to downsizers looking for greater financial flexibility and thriving communities.



Anthology is a London based residential developer who is dedicated to creating homes and enhancing neighbourhoods that inspire the real-life stories of people who are passionate about London.  Anthology are a talented team of people with a wealth of experience creating residential developments in London.  At the heart of our approach is enhancing neighbourhoods, celebrating the people, their stories and culture that makes the City such an exciting place to live.


Anthology has already launched developments in Deptford, Hoxton, Wembley, Tottenham and Stratford.



Established in 2012 Pegasus are redefining retirement through the delivery of high quality homes and communities, to further enrich our customer’s lives.  We deliver exceptional homes and spaces uniquely designed for independent living.  Our properties are set in desirable locations across England and each offers an exclusive experience and an unwavering focus on delivering excellent service.


Pegasus has over 35 sites all at different development stages.




Renaissance was founded in the 1990s with the main aim of designing, building and managing retirement development that were innovative, with the ambition of reinvigorating retirement housing.  With Renaissance, you’ll enjoy independent living in a beautiful environment, safe in the knowledge that your home is secure.


With over 22 sites in our portfolio, we continue to look for sites where we can be part of a community.











  1.                Is the current planning system working as it should do?  What changes might need to be made? Are the Government’s proposals the right approach?


The current planning system does not currently deliver what is needed, it is often slow and determination dates are frequently missed, with long extensions being requested by Local Authorities.  The number of new entrants to the market is not growing in the way you would expect.  Some of the recommendations contained within the two recent Government consultations might assist, but changes need to be ones for the long term rather than a short term solution with an expiry date. 


The creation of Help to Buy has enabled us to deliver homes for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder and this is to be commended.  However, at the top of the ladder, there has been a significant failure of the planning system to address the housing needs of older people, which becomes even more critical based on demographic pressures that already exist.  There is the need for more of all types of retirement housing, including retirement living and assisted living, both in the private, rental and social housing sectors.  Enabling older people to live independently in specialist housing created with ageing in mind will help reduce pressures on adult social care and the NHS.[1] 


Specialist housing for older people creates significant health, social, environmental and economic benefits.  We would ask for you to consider proposing an exemption for retirement housing from S106 and CIL contributions as a result of these benefits, they operate as a social care credit due to the savings from other Local Authority and NHS budgets. 


  1.                In seeking to build 300,000 homes a year, is the greatest obstacle the planning system or the subsequent build-out of properties with permission?


Both are currently a challenge, but the ambitious target of 300,000 homes a year will only be reached if they are both tackled. 


The provision of Help to Buy has assisted greatly in the delivery of new homes over the last seven years, however the scheme is due to end in 2023 and new restrictions coming into force next year are also likely to make it more challenging for housing delivery at current rates to be maintained.


From a retirement housing perspective, the estimated need for new retirement housing of all tenures is 30,000 per year, 10% of the overall annual target.  At its peak in the 1980s approximately 20,000 were built, most recent figures show this is down to approximately 8,000 new homes a year[2] (pre COVID-19).


The current planning system does not provide enough of a focus on the need to address the challenges faced by the demographic pressure which sees the number of over 85s double by 2032[3] (within most Local Planning Authorities Local Plan period).  Nor is there a clear understanding of the need for the provision of housing for older people at a local level.  Far from realising retirement housing will provide health and social care savings, rather than burdens (approximately £200,000 per year for a typical 40 apartment retirement scheme)[4] local authorities in general and elected members are often wary of approving retirement living schemes for fear of importing older people and putting additional pressure on local services.


Sir Oliver Letwin’s 2018 Review of Build Out rates demonstrated that a greater variety of housing types was one key way to make sure build-out rates were improved.  Unfortunately, this has not been what has occurred in practice, with the majority of new housing being built by a small number of the largest developers whose build-out rates are directly dependent on market absorption rates.  This often means housing that is similar in design and size is built, creating challenges in a local community, which ultimately can make it harder for all developers to get planning permission.


Evidence shows there is a significant difference between those who would like to move into a retirement development and those who actually do, as supply does not currently match demand.


Unlike other parts of the housing market, the retirement sector does not tend to sell homes off plan.  Build-out rates tend to be quicker (between 12-18 months) because of the size of apartment schemes, which on average tend to be 40 homes.


  1.                How can the planning system ensure that buildings are beautiful and fit for purpose?


For Lifestory Group, the key is that buildings are both beautiful and provide a great living environment for our home owners/tenants.  For the two retirement brands within the company, it is important that we create spaces with high levels of natural light, that are flexible and adaptable to people’s changing wants and needs as they age.  The landscape in which a development sits is particularly important, this has been further emphasised this year when people of all ages have been spending more time at home as a result of COVID-19.  Security, both by design and natural surveillance are key features many of our homeowners and tenants have said they look for. 


When creating our developments it has always been important to take reference from what exists locally without creating pastiche.  We put a contemporary twist, paying attention to our surroundings, but don’t seek to imitate.  The success of this has been recognised both by our homeowners and tenants and also by building design awards such as the HAPPI award, part of the Housing Design Awards and other Civic Society awards the Group has been successful in achieving.


However, it is vital to recognise that design and beauty are subjective and it is often the case that elected members prefer a more traditional pastiche approach when it comes to development in their communities, which could become a barrier to great design that stands the test of time.  The role of Design Review Panels, made up of technical specialists should be enhanced and greater weight given to their feedback.


  1.                What approach should be taken to determine the housing need and requirement of a local authority?


Local Authorities must assess and plan for housing which specifically meet the needs of their area and this should include the needs of older people in their communities.  Currently this is not done in a systematic way across all local authorities and tends to only occur in the more forward-thinking local authority areas.  Understanding the need for older peoples’ housing, planning for it and then monitoring delivery significantly increases the likelihood of it being delivered.


The retirement housing sector, in the absence of a robust assessment being created has asked for a default target of 10% of new housing, this would assist in meeting the national figure of 30,000 new homes being specially designed for older people (10% of the Government’s national target).


  1.                What is the best approach to ensure public engagement in the planning system? What role should modern technology and data play in this?


Public engagement in the planning system is to be welcomed, if it is done properly and in a meaningful way.  This starts with the creation of neighbourhood and local plans.  Often the creation of a Local Plan brings with it many challenges, particularly relating to housing numbers required in a local area.  Effective training of local councillors is important to make sure that housing needed in a local area can be provided and is not threatened by anti development sentiment just by virtue of communities not wanting development near them.  Developers can play their part in this process too, by identifying land they wish to develop and entering into thorough and meaningful consultation on their proposals with local elected members and communities.  Historically advertisements have been placed in local newspapers, through direct letter drops and signage.  The level of readership of local newspapers has changed considerably over the last ten years.  It remains important that those potentially most affected should receive a letter and notices should be put up nearby.  Beyond that there is no reason why further advertisements couldn’t be done digitally, either through the Council’s website or a GIS portal where residents can type in a postcode for further information.  It is important those who don’t have access to the internet are not disenfranchised from the process, but continuing the methods outlined above would go some way towards making sure this doesn’t happen.



  1.                How can the planning system ensure adequate and reasonable protection for areas and buildings of environmental, historical, and architectural importance?


Such procedures are already in place and therefore no change is required.


  1.                What changes, if any, are needed to the green belt?


All brands within Lifestory Group both general needs housing and retirement housing developments tend to be on brownfield sites, invariably close to town/district centres and accessible to public transport.  We have found proximity to services, particularly the local high street is important for those over the age of 60. 


Providing greater emphasis on the role retirement housing has to play in the planning system will help reduce existing and future pressures on the Green Belt.  Retirement housing helps address this in two clear ways, firstly due to the preferred location for our owners/tenants we bring forward previously developed brownfield sites, secondly, as a result of a move into retirement housing further moves in the housing chain occur which helps to bring family housing back onto the market.  Each move into a retirement property leads to between 2 and 3 properties being released further down the chain[5], which is something to be welcomed.



  1.                What progress has been made since the Committee’s 2018 report on capturing land value and how might the proposals improve outcomes? What further steps might also be needed?


As previously outlined, the retirement housing sector is already at a significant disadvantage when it comes to land acquisition and through the planning process, anything that seeks to add further cost is likely to reduce the amount of housing for older people yet further.  The unintended consequences of Land Value Capture will see costs increased even further will see rates of development for such housing fall and is likely to detract potential new entrants to the market.  This is recognised not only by the industry but also the HCLG Select Committee in its recent Inquiry into housing for older people[6], Policy Exchange[7] and Demos[8].


There is much pressure on the Government and Local Authorities to protect the Green Belt, if Land Value Capture is brought in it will create a financial barrier and penalty for those looking to bring forward development on existing brownfield sites.  Although this will impact the entire housebuilding sector, this is likely to have the greatest impact on SME housebuilders, at a time where they should be being supported.  It is also likely to mean that landowners do not sell their land and therefore creates a shortage of supply.



October 2020

[1] Healthier and Happier, Homes for Later Living, September 2019, https://homesforlaterliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-Healthier-and-Happier-13.09.19.pdf

[2] Knight Frank (2018)

[3] ONS, National Population Predictions, 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/bulletins/nationalpopulationprojections/2018based

[4] Chain Reaction, Homes for Later Living, August 2020, https://www.housinglin.org.uk/_assets/Resources/Housing/OtherOrganisation/Report-2-Final.pdf

[5] Chain Reaction, Homes for Later Living, August 2020, https://www.housinglin.org.uk/_assets/Resources/Housing/OtherOrganisation/Report-2-Final.pdf

[6] Housing for Older People, HCLG Select Committee, February 2018

[7] Airey, J (2018) Building for the Baby Boomers, Policy Exchangehttps://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Building-for-the-Baby-Boomers-Jack-Airey-Policy-Exchange-December-2018.pdf

[8]  Wood,C.  (2017) Unlocking the Housing Market, Demos https://www.demos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Unlocking-the-Market-Demos-Report.pdf