HOUSING chiefs are bracing themselves for a “significant” increase in the number of older people living Carlisle as they plan for an ageing society.

The city is anticipating the numbers of elderly people to grow by up to 30 per cent between now and 2030, as the struggle continues to maintain a working age population.

Meanwhile, the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership has identified the county’s demographic make-up as the “number one challenge” facing the economy in the next 20 years.

A meeting of the Economic Growth Scrutiny Panel heard that the county is contending not only with an ageing population but a dearth of young people staying in the area.

Garry Legg, the city council’s investment and policy manager, said the region was seeing a “contracting labour supply”, with “genuine difficulties filling existing jobs let alone getting people to fill new jobs.”

He stressed that building more homes would not solve the problem “on its own” but remained a “key part of the response”. The house-building drive is intended to “support economic growth” and maintain “a working age population”, the meeting heard.

The comments emerged as the panel discussed housing need across the Carlisle district and Cumbria as a whole. They were considering the five-year Strategic Housing Market Assessment report, which looks at issues including the need for affordable and specialist housing as well as the private rental sector.

Carlisle already has a slightly “older age profile” than the national average and the council is working with developers to ensure there is enough specialist housing to accommodate more older people in the years to come.

It is estimated that the city will require an additional 32 extra care houses every year to cope with the surge in demand, including developments where elderly people will be able to live “independently” but with “on site care” provided.

The development of St Cuthbert’s Garden Village – an ambitious and unique housing and economic development scheme for the south of the city – is seen as “critical” to meet the housing demands in the future.

The report also estimated that the city will need to build around 158 affordable homes a year to meet demand.

Of these, 60 per cent would be for social or affordable rentals, while the remaining 40 per cent would be “intermediate low-cost home ownership”.

The latter would include shared ownership or discounted sale available through the council’s waiting list.