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Planning: what is fall back and how can it benefit you?

Mon 24 February 2020

Alister Smith of Stags Planning department discusses the benefits of using a fall-back argument when it comes to planning applications.

When the term “fall back” is used in planning terms, it is relating to an argument where the principle of residential development can be used as a lever to gaining full planning permission. For example, if prior approval had been obtained to carry out the conversion of an agricultural building to a residential dwelling via Class Q (agricultural to residential conversion), this then allows the existing fall-back position (in this case the Class Q prior approval) to be applied to a full planning application for a similar scheme. For a fall-back scheme to be successful, there needs to be some form of public betterment from the proposals.

 There are many benefits to utilising a fall-back argument including:

  • Three-year start date:  As opposed to a three-year completion condition attached to a prior approval, full planning permission is under the more common three-year commencement condition. This provides you with the option to make a material start to the project and secure the permission for perpetuity; something not currently possible under prior approval.
  • Buying time:  If you’ve already made a material start under a prior approval process but are unlikely to complete within the three-year timeframe. As prior approval by definition cannot be obtained retrospectively, it cannot be sought once the works have commenced and so a full planning application utilising the fall-back argument would be the only feasible option in this case.
  • Uplift in land value:  If you were simply looking to market the land with permission, in most cases full planning permission for a new dwelling would be more valuable than prior approval for the conversion of an existing building.
  • Extent of works:  A full planning application utilising the fall-back argument could be used to provide a new dwelling, or even to just carry out works that would fall outside the parameters of prior approval such as Class Q (for example balconies, landscaping and external works) or even just to increase the limited residential curtilage.
  • Build cost and tax savings:  With any conversion of an existing building, having to work with what’s there can sometimes become complicated and costly. When designing a new dwelling however, the design and materials can be specified and value engineered to meet specific budgets, not to mention that new builds are not subject to VAT.
  • Siting:  A full planning application would allow the potential re-siting of the proposed development to suit site conditions.
The fall-back approach has been tried and tested with planning authorities up and down the country in recent years and has been widely successful on the whole. Stags has experience with a number of fall-back applications and has recently been successful in securing full planning permission for a client utilising the fall-back argument after obtaining prior approval via Class Q on a barn near Looe, Cornwall.

“While the case which set things in motion is now three years old, it has taken some time for the impacts to trickle down” says Alister Smith of Stags Planning Services.  “However, we are now seeing a significant number of South West local planning authorities accepting the fall-back principle.  Some are even willing to consider new builds where Class Q hasn’t yet been given, but evidently would be if an application were made”, reports Alister. 

Stags is able to offer a one-stop shop service from valuations to planning advice; architectural services to sales and lettings. If we can be of any assistance, or if you would like any further advice on the fall-back argument please do not hesitate to contact us today.

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