Frequently asked questions on listed buildings

Whether you live in a listed building and are considering having works carried out or you are thinking of buying a listed property, it’s important for you to understand exactly what is meant by the term ‘listed building’ in the UK. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding listed buildings.

What is a listed building?

A listed building is any building that is deemed by the government to be historically significant or worthy of conservation. They are determined by Historic England, which acts as the government’s advising body on the issue. Once a building has been determined as being architecturally or nationally important it is placed on the list. The list is split into three grades and it currently stands at more than 370,000 entries.

What are the different grades of listing?

There are three different grades that a listed building can fall under. The vast majority of the buildings fall under Grade II; these are deemed to be buildings of special interest. The rest are either Grade I which are considered to be of exceptional national importance or interest or Grade II* which are considered to be highly important buildings that are of more than just special interest.

Grade I buildings are the most important, but if a building is listed at all then it means that it warrants protection and conservation.

Why are buildings listed?

Buildings are listed because they are thought to be worthy of conservation and protection. The control over whether they are listed falls to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who are advised by Historic England. Buildings are periodically considered for listing on the recommendation of inspectors who may have surveyed a building or found a specific building that is under threat.

How do I find out if my property is listed?

There is no specific requirement or law that states that owners should be consulted before a building is listed. That means that your building can both considered and listed without you knowing that this has happened. Once your building has been listed you will be notified, but if you believe that your building was already listed you can check through the Listed Buildings Online database which stores the details of all listed buildings.

Can I carry out works on a listed building?

In many cases you need to apply for consent if you wish to make any alterations to a listed building – even if you own the building in its entirety. Works such as whole or part demolition, extensions, alterations that affect the character of the building or replacement of historic features all require specific permission before you may have work carried out.

What about repairs?

It is usually the case that if you wish to carry out like-for-like repairs using the same materials, you will not require permission. However you need to tread carefully because if your repairs make any alterations that affect the character of the property you may be breaking the rules. To be completely safe it is best to let your local council know about any planned repair or renovation work so that they can decide if consent is required or not. It should be noted that this applies both to the exterior and the interior of a property.

It should be noted that you can have urgent or emergency repairs carried out in certain circumstances. If there is a danger of the state of the building affecting public safety or health, it is generally possible to carry out works without prior consent.

What are the penalties for carrying out works without consent?

The penalties for carrying out works on a listed building without gaining consent first can be very harsh. You can face being fined or in extreme cases you could even be sent to prison. In order to ensure that you are always in the clear you should apply for permission before you have any works carried out.

Can I get my property delisted?

Getting a building delisted can be challenging and generally you will need to provide justification and evidence as to why the building should not be listed. Contact the Department of Culture, Media and Sport if you would like to get the process started.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry. For the information in this post, Surrey-based surveying firm Hutton and Rostron were consulted.

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