Charities, academics and local people are appalled at Elmbridge council’s recommendation for refusal that stated older people will “undermine the viability and the vitality the town centre”. Dominic Raab has been asked to intervene as council plans to oppose Guild Living’s £100m high street development, offering over 65s better quality of life, stating that older people should not be living in town centres.
The response has caused significant anger among leading charities, campaign groups and lawyers – who have stressed that the move could breach the Equality Act as it discloses age-based discrimination. Some of the comments are shared below.
Dorah May, Chief Officer at Age Concern Epsom & Ewell:
“To suggest that more older residents in Walton-on-Thames town centre will do nothing to enhance the area’s ‘vitality’ is misguided, inaccurate and, above all, deeply offensive.
“We urge the Elmbridge Borough Council to withdraw such ludicrous comments and see this planning application for what it is — an opportunity to set a benchmark for how Surrey and Britain as a whole should be looking after the elderly.”
Leading gerontologist Professor Malcolm Johnson, University of Bath and star of the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 show ‘The Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds‘:
“The council should reconsider its indefensible ‘advice’ and engage with the evidence. As an academic, who over a long career, has engaged with many groups, I am familiar with the age-old prejudices of those who present older people as ‘the burden of society’ and make unevidenced generalisations about 20% of our population. That is what’s happening here. I am shocked, but not surprised.”
Dan Tench, Partner at law firm CMS:
“It would seem that the refusal to grant planning permission here would be very likely to constitute treating older people less favourably than others.
“Under the Equality Act 2010, age is a ‘protected characteristic’.
“Accordingly, it would be unlawful discrimination unless the local authority can show that it was a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
Jan Dyer, an older member of the community in Walton-on-Thames:
“I am appalled at these ageist and insulting comments from Elmbridge Borough Council.
“This unique development planned by Guild Living will provide high-quality, safe and secure homes for over 100 older persons who will enjoy the sharing and supportive benefits of community living in their later years.
“Guild Living will also provide numerous local employment opportunities, not only in the construction phase but also after completion as a variety of facilities are being provided onsite, including restaurants, therapies, cultural and social activities. These will stimulate interaction between the generations and ensure the residents are integrated into the local community.
“As for being ‘detrimental’ and not bringing anything of value to the local town, this is both degrading and untrue. There is ample proof from organisations such as the University of the Third Age that older people contribute fully to the life of their local communities.”
Judith Olisa, Walton-on-Thames resident and Age UK service user:
“The decision by Elmbridge Council to refuse planning permission for a new housing initiative for the elderly because it ‘fails to support diversity in the city centre’ raises awareness of the many forms of discrimination prevalent in society.
“Rhetoric that suggests that age is a barrier to contributing to society, that the financial interest of an area is somehow diminishing by older inhabitants reflects the lack of support by the council to the commitment to diversity and inclusion that the council purports to hold.
“I would be very interested in the evidence that the council can show to substantiate this decision because in my opinion, it is straightforward discrimination based on age and little else.”
Phil Bayliss, CEO of Later Living at Legal & General and chairman at Guild Living:
“It is a matter of great concern that Elmbridge Borough Council is seemingly unaware of both its duty to protect its growing population of older people, but also of a potential breach of the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits public authorities acting in a discriminatory way, including discrimination on the basis of age.
“Far from depleting ‘vitality’ in the town centre, this project would place older people where they belong — right in the heart of their community — while supporting the local economy and delivering on Elmbridge Council’s obligation to provide adequate housing for older people.
“It is my sincerest hope that the council will have a change of both heart and mind and withdraws its recommendation for refusal.”
To read the full letter submitted to Dominic Raab urging him to intervene as Elmbridge Council looks to refuse planning application based on ageist claims HERE>