Any potential property buyer (and a fair few contractors) should be aware of what type of building they are buying. If you have looked at a new property and been told that it is a Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II listed building then you need to know what that means before you sign your life away. We put together this guide to help you understand the listed building regulations and let you know exactly what it is that you are getting in to.
What is a listed building?
What is a listed building? These are (usually old) buildings that have either (a) Historical relevance or (b) are of special architectural design. Listed buildings are considered to be of national importance. When you try to structurally alter or update a listed building, this is when you will run into the legislation that is there to protect them. Historic England has a great page that explains the details of listed building status thoroughly if you need more information.
When you do live in a listed building you will need to apply for a special type of consent in order to have any changes approved, especially if those changes apply to the ‘historical or architectural significance’ of the property. When a property is listed, the listing applies to everything on the inside and the outside of the house.
What does the grading system mean?
There are 3 main grades (as mentioned above) but there are also three other grades, mainly used by the church. If the building is a church, it may be listed as Grade A, B, or C. These building grades fall into roughly the same categories as the other grades. The three main categories are as follows:
- Grade II – the most common listed building status. Grade II buildings are of special interest, either through architecture or historical merit. All measures should be taken to ensure they are preserved.
- Grade II* – These are similar to Grade II but are of particular interest or importance.
- Grade I – These listed buildings are only the very most important ones.
To put this into perspective and give you a little clarity:
- Abbey Road Studios in London is a Grade II listed building, as is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
- The Battersea Power Station and the Trellick Tower are both Grade II* listed buildings.
- Westminster Palace, Blackpool Tower, and the Tower Bridge in London are all Grade I listed buildings.
Do I live in a listed building?
Historic England says that 92% of all occupied listed buildings are Grade II, so if you do live in a listed building, it will probably be of the same grade. If you don’t already know you live in a listed building, then it’s likely that you don’t. If you live in a newer building that isn’t known for remarkable architecture, then probably not.
If you are still unsure and want to check for certain, you can do so by following this link.
What if I want to perform building work in a listed building?
If you want to perform building work on a listed building, then you will need to complete the correct paperwork and wait for the approval. The paperwork you need to complete is known as the listed building consent form. Carrying out unauthorized work without first contacting the relevant authorities is a criminal offence and may see you prosecuted. Always check with your local council conservation officer if the work you are going to do will apply to Building Consent.
Primarily, consent must be sought for any extensions or alterations, including renovation and demolition work. The primary focus of the conservation department will be to ensure that you don’t alter any of the features that make the building distinctive or special. If you can work around this rule, then you may not need to enter the paperwork at all. This will need to be worked out on a case-by-case basis by your local council. Finding out what is specifically affected in your building before you plan building work can save you time and money later in the planning process.
What if I need to alter the building anyway?
If your local officer has informed you that you might be able to make your changes even though they impact the listed building in question, they will then direct you to complete the necessary paperwork. You will be able to find the Listed Building Consent form and a PDF containing everything you need to know about it, by visiting the panning portal for the UK Government here.
The Listed Building Consent Form must be used to ensure:
- The preservation of historical or architectural features of the building – either if it is to be kept or if it is to be removed.
- That any damage that is done to the building is repaired afterwards.
- That any reconstruction follows the original plans, using original materials if it is possible, and any alterations are fully accounted for.
- That the lack of any modern safety or building standards regulations within the building is upgraded to the best of the ability of the contractors.
- That any outbuildings of the original listed property are safe and secure. If you plan to alter these, you will also need to apply through the listed consent process.
- That original parts of the building that are entirely removed have been properly stored, removed, or reused, as appropriate.
How long does it take to get listed building consent approval?
The length of time it takes to gain approval for your proposed changes will vary between local council areas. You should allow 8-10 weeks for the process to be completed, but this is an estimate on the side of caution. Some councils may complete the process in less time if you pursue them for it. Whether or not pursuing them for it will help your application gain approval, however, is another matter entirely.
This article was written on behalf of Boulton & Boyce by Pieter Boyce. Pieter has an intense passion for English Architectural history and has been specialising in the conservation of original wooden windows and doors for decades. His exceptional knowledge of timber windows and doors, both listed or non-listed, is attributed to his hands-on approach to learning all aspects of the complete restoration of original features as well as having personally surveyed thousands of items throughout his long tenure as a head surveyor for one of the largest window and door restoration companies in the UK. He now runs a boutique wooden window and door consultancy and fervently champions the retention of original windows and doors. To learn more of Pieter’s services, visit his website at www.boultonboyce.co.uk.