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Owning and managing a listed building

The special character of listed buildings derives not only from their general form and style, but also from the smallest detail. Their character is therefore fragile and easily destroyed, often by well-intentioned but misinformed decisions.

An understanding and appreciation of the historic building is essential to ensure successful maintenance and alteration.  Before carrying out any works to a historic building find out as much as you can about its history, development and details, drawing on information locally available from libraries, museums and archives.

Buying a listed building

If you are buying a listed building with the intention of major alterations, you must ask if this is the right house for you.  Buildings are listed for their present character and appearance, which will rarely survive the addition of major alterations.  The setting of a building is also an important consideration.  A small listed building in a big plot does not always imply room for expansion.

If you are buying a listed building and want to make alterations to it then you are advised to check with the Conservation Planner first. Many people find themselves disappointed that they bought a listed property, hoping to extend it or make alterations, only to find out that they are not permitted to undertake such works.

It is also advisable to check with your solicitor that all works that have historically been carried out to the property had the necessary consents. If you buy a property with unauthorised works, you become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with the unauthorised works

When buying a listed building, any ideas about proposed alterations should be carefully considered.  Proposals should not be made hastily before their implications are properly understood.  Enlisting the services of a registered architect or chartered building surveyor familiar with the conservation of historic buildings and the planning process is strongly advised. Occasionally, for particularly historic or complex buildings, the services of a historic buildings specialist or buildings archaeologist may also be necessary.

How to look after your listed building

  • Routine maintenance of a listed building is essential if major repairs are to be avoided.
  • Traditional materials and technology have proved their worth by lasting until today and give historic buildings their special character.
  • Like should be replaced with like wherever possible.  Consent will often be required for changes and may be required for some repairs.
  • Existing fabric should always be repaired rather than replaced with new work.  Whenever work is necessary, it should always be carefully detailed to avoid damage to old work.
  • Missing features should only be reinstated where there is good evidence for their original appearance.
  • Historic buildings are not the place to experiment with new techniques.  Tried and tested methods should be used wherever possible.
  • It is sobering to reflect that a significant amount of repair work is needed to historic buildings to tackle the consequences of well-intentioned but misguided earlier repairs.

What you can and can't do without consent

Listed Building Consent is required for any works of demolition, alteration, extension or stone cleaning which in any way affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest.  In practice, this can mean that even minor items such as changing a door can require consent.  If you are in any doubt as to the need for consent, please contact the Conservation Planner. Whether repairs constitute alterations which require consent is a matter which must be determined by the local planning authority in each case.

It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of all works that require consent. The type of work which normally requires Listed Building Consent includes:

  • Porches, conservatories and any other extensions
  • Any demolition work
  • Repairs not carried out in matching materials (e.g. changing from a hand-made clay tile to a machine made tile, using a cement render instead of a lime render)
  • Re-roofing where there is a change of roofing material (e.g. a change in the type of slate or tile to be used, or using a different thatching material)
  • Demolition and rebuilding of important features like chimney stacks
  • Sand-blasting stonework, brickwork and timbers (internal and external)
  • Exposing timbers and brickwork previously hidden beneath plaster or limewash
  • Stripping out internal plasterwork (where it is not being replaced as original)
  • Removal or alteration to internal features such as doors, cupboards, panelling, fireplaces, and historic plaster ceilings and joinery
  • Changes to the plan form of internal rooms (e.g. blocking-up door openings, removing partitions or staircases)
  • New pipework (where this has an impact on the listed building)
  • Insertion of suspended ceilings or removal of existing ceilings
  • Fitting of new boilers, ovens or stoves which require flues
  • Painting of previously unpainted surfaces such as brick or stone
  • Painting of external stucco, render or timber where this will have a visual impact
  • The installation of a satellite dish
  • On business premises new signage fixed to the building will require listed building consent
  • Demolition or alteration of a wall or structure forming part of that building or attached to it.
  • Altering or replacing any of the doors or windows (including replacing timber windows with secondary glazed frames or plastic/uPVC windows)
  • Fixing or removing bargeboards, window shutters, replacing cast iron gutters/down pipes with plastic.
  • The creation of new internal partitions

Extensions to listed buildings

Extensions to listed buildings will always require listed building consent and may also require planning permission. This will depend on many variables including the amount the property has been extended in the past, the dimensions of the proposed extension and the materials to be used. However, there will always be some historic buildings where any extension would be considered damaging and therefore unacceptable. Also many listed buildings have already been substantially extended in the past and the Council may decide that further additions would so damage the character of the original building that consent should not be given.

Carrying out work without consent

Any person who carries out, or causes to be carried out, any works to a listed building without Listed Building Consent, where such works affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest will, on conviction, be guilty of a criminal offence.

Proceedings can be taken for the offence which can result in a large fine and/or imprisonment.  Enforcement action may be taken to restore the building to its original state or comply with conditions attached to the terms of any listed building consent.  There is no time limit for taking listed building enforcement action.

Failure to obtain consent often comes to light during the sale of a property and may make the building difficult to sell until unauthorised works are remedied.  If you buy a property with unauthorised works, you become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with the unauthorised works.

Buying a listed building which has had unauthorised works

If you buy a property with unauthorised works, you become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with the unauthorised works. Before buying a listed building you should ensure that all works that have been carried out to it have first received the necessary consents.

Carrying out emergency work to a listed building

Emergency work can only be carried out to a listed building if you can subsequently prove all of the following:

  • That the works were urgently necessary in the interests of safety or health or for the preservation of the building;
  • That it was not practicable to secure safety or health or, as the case may be, the preservation of the building by works of repair or works for affording temporary support or shelter;
  • That the works carried out were the minimum measures immediately necessary; and
  • That notice in writing justifying in detail the carrying out of the works was given to the Council as soon as reasonably practical.

Buildings at Risk Register

Owners and occupiers of listed buildings have a responsibility to maintain it in a good state of repair. Listed buildings that have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair may be added to the Buildings at risk register. This means that its condition will be monitored and, should it not improve, the local authority may request an enforcement notice be served for the necessary repairs and replacements to be carried out.

Where to go for specialist advice and materials

Ask your agent or the Conservation Planner.  Traditional materials and craftspeople skilled in their use are usually available.  The use of appropriate materials is essential to preserve the character of buildings.

You may be able to reclaim VAT

New works to listed buildings which have received Listed Building Consent may be eligible for zero rating.  Works of maintenance or repair are not normally eligible to be zero rated.  Further information on this subject is available from HM Revenue and Customs.


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