THE UK’s biggest retirement housing developer is looking for land in Southampton and says it could invest £5million in the city.

Bournemouth-based McCarthy & Stone has £100million to spend on land across the UK and has named Southampton as one of the areas in its sights.

It is predicting a big rise in demand for retirement housing, with the UK’s population of over-65s set to grow by 43 per cent in 20 years.

It says its plans are a response to Boris Johnson’s appeal for developers to “build, build, build”.

McCarthy & Stone says it is in a strong cash position despite several challenging months of trading caused by the lockdown. It has secured £300m from the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility to support its plans.

McCarthy & Stone says a scheme of 40 flats typically provides around 50 jobs during construction, with the company committed to using local subcontractors, tradespeople and suppliers. Up to 17 jobs are created when each development is complete.

Chief executive John Tonkiss said: “The prime minister is spot on in recognising that housebuilding will be central to the UK’s recovery effort, and more and better housing for older people is a critical part of the mix.

“High-quality and well-located retirement communities bring life back to high streets and help older people remain independent and secure in their own home, with companionship and assistance on hand if needed.

“Our communities have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of customers – something that has never been more important than right now. Coupled with the ageing population, we are predicting a substantial increase in interest.”

McCarthy & Stone is looking for Southampton sites of between 0.5 and five acres, ideally with level access and in a prominent location near to local amenities.

It says its strategy supports the government’s drive to revive town and city centres and could provide a lifeline for shops and other local businesses.

McCarthy & Stone developments provide flats and bungalows for the over-60s, with the option to buy, rent or part-buy and part-rent. There is care and support available on site.

The developer reported a lower impact from Covid-19 on its 441 developments than was seen among the general population over 65.

It says its developments also help other home buyers by releasing more family-sized homes into the market as older people downsize. These new housing chains typically end with first time buyers getting onto the property ladder, it says.