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Listed Buildings: Frequently Asked Questions

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Who decides whether a building should be listed? 

Listing is undertaken by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as advised by Historic England. 

What are the selection criteria for listing? 

Historic England has published a series of selection guides help to explain what they are looking for when they assess applications for Listing. 

How can I get a building listed or delisted? 

A formal application should be made to Historic England in accordance with their guidance

How do I find out if a building is listed? 

You can find out whether a building is listed by consulting the National Heritage List  

What is a list description? 

The Statutory List includes a description of each building. The primary purpose of the list description is to identify the building. It is not a definitive list of important features.  

What are the different grades of listing? 

Listed buildings are placed in one of three grades, which give an indication of their relative importance - grade I, grade II* or grade II. The statutory controls on alterations apply equally to all listed buildings whatever the grade. 

Is the whole of the building included in the listing? 

Yes. The whole building is listed. This includes the inside as well as the outside along with any object or structure fixed to the building. The area of land around a listed building within the boundaries is known as the ‘curtilage’ and any pre 1st July 1948 building or structure within this area could also deemed to be curtilage listed as are the boundary walls, railings, gates and possibly garden features. 

Is the exterior of Grade II listed buildings the only protected part of the building? 

There is a common misconception that the listing covers only the outside of a building or only the main façade. There is no such thing as a partially listed building. The whole structure is covered by listing, inside and out. This applies whatever the grade of listing.  

What works require listed building consent? 

Any internal and external works of alteration, extension or demolition, which affect the character of a listed building, will require listed building consent. There is no simple guide to what this comprises because the judgement must be made in each case. 

This applies to internal as well as external works and similarly Listed building Consent is required for works to curtilage listed buildings.  

Do works of general maintenance and repair require Listed Building Consent? 

Certain types of work do not always require listed building consent, for example internal redecoration, renewal of concealed services, and the replacement of modern kitchen and bathroom fittings. Likewise, routine maintenance and 'like for like' repairs do not normally need listed building consent though more substantial repairs may require consent depending on their extent and nature. 

Can I carry out emergency work to a listed building? 

Emergency work can be carried out to a listed building without prior consent providing you can subsequently prove all of the following: 

  • that the works were urgently necessary in the interest of safety or health or for the preservation of the building 
  • it was not practical to secure public safety or health or preserve the building by works of repair or temporary support or shelter 
  • that the work was limited to the minimum measures immediately necessary 
  • that notice in writing justifying in detail the work was given to the Council as soon as reasonably practicable 
How can I apply for Listed Building consent? 

Please refer to the Council’s Development Control pages for information about the applying for listed building consent and downloading the necessary documents. Any application for listed building consent must include detailed drawings and information to justify the proposed changes. Without this the application may not be validated. 

Is listed building consent different from planning permission? 

Yes, the two systems are separate. Although internal alterations do not normally require planning permission they will most likely need listed building consent. Certainly removing historic features such as fireplaces, stairs, decorative plasterwork or panelling will usually need formal consent. In some cases, both listed building consent and planning permission will be required. 

What happens if unauthorised works are carried out on a Listed Building? 

If you carry out unauthorised work or do not follow the details of approved plans, you will be in contravention of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This may result in prosecution and enforcement proceedings. You may be required to make good any damage or to reinstate any works which are not approved at your own expense. Carrying out unauthorised works to a Listed Building is a criminal offence. 

Am I liable to enforcement if I purchase a listed building which has had unauthorised works carried out on it? 

Yes, as the owner you will become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with unauthorised work carried out by previous owners. You are recommended to check if any works have been undertaken before purchasing the property. 

Can the Council take any action if a listed building falls into disrepair? 

The Council has legal powers to serve an Urgent Works Notice or Repairs Notice on a listed building owner. The notices will specify the works which are considered reasonably necessary for the preservation of the building. Non-compliance with a notice can result in the Council carrying out the work at the owner's cost or in extreme cases, compulsorily purchasing the building. 

Where can I find specialist advice? 

When considering alterations and repairs to Listed Buildings, it is strongly advised to use the professional services of architects and surveyors who specialise in historic buildings.  

The following specialist organisations and interest groups have published helpful technical guidance on aspects of historic building repairs and may be able to assist in sourcing specialist products, services and contractors. 

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