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Listed Buildings

What is a Listed Building?

Only a small proportion of buildings in Britain (about 2.5%) are listed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as being of special architectural or historic interest. Listing protects an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage from unsympathetic changes and unnecessary destruction.

All buildings listed before 1700 which survive in anything like their original form are listed as most are built between 1700 and 1840. Between 1840 and 1914 the range of buildings listed becomes more selective. More recent buildings of special character may also be listed. The special interest of a building is not always visible; for example, an important ancient timber frame may be hidden behind later plaster or brickwork.

Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest which need special protection are compiled by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. These 'Listed Buildings' are classified into three grades:

  • Grade I. - Buildings of exceptional interest, usually judged to be of national importance.
  • Grade II* - (known as Two Star) -Particularly important buildings of exceptional interest and of outstanding importance
  • Grade II - Other buildings of special interest which warrant every effort to preserve them.

Scope of the Protection

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport list gives a brief description of each building in the District, and can be inspected at your local Council Offices. The whole of a listed building is protected, externally and internally. Consent is required before such internal features as staircases, fireplaces and doors can be removed, repositioned or altered.

Listed building control extends to:

  • any object or structure fixed to the building
  • any structure or object built before the 1st July 1948 relating to and forming (or which once formed) an integral part of the curtilage of a listed building. e.g. outhouses, greenhouses, garden walls, barns, farm outbuildings, stables and statues.

The Effect of Listing

Listing a building seeks to ensure that:

  • important features, both internally and externally, which form the character of the building, are conserved;
  • demolition is only undertaken when it is justified and consent has been granted;
  • extensions and alterations must be carried out in such a way that the character of the building is protected;
  • repairs are undertaken following good conservation practice.

Owner's Responsibility

The legislation is not intended to prevent alterations or changes to listed buildings.

You are legally required to:

  • keep the building wind and watertight and structurally sound;
  • firstly obtain the necessary consent for any alterations, extension or changes.

Listed Building Consent

All changes which affect the character of a listed building require listed building consent (LBC) from your local authority. There is no charge for LBC and there is VAT relief on alterations for which consent is granted (Further information is available from your local Customs & Excise Department). Listing does not mean that no changes will be allowed but each proposal will be assessed individually. Unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence, and carries heavy penalties.

You need consent to alter extend or demolish any part of a listed building. This includes for example taking down chimneys; removing fireplaces, partitions or staircases; replacing windows and doors, or altering their openings, and any change to the external appearance.

Some apparently minor works can damage the fabric as well as the appearance of old buildings and should be avoided:

Cement pointing or rendering in place of traditional lime mortars can seriously damage brickwork.

  • Concrete roof tiles are unsuitable for old roofs and may be too heavy for the roof timbers.
  • Cleaning old brick or timber can often cause damage and
  • Sandblasting is always unacceptable.
  • Exposed brickwork should never be painted.
  • uPVC windows cannot reproduce the character of old timber ones and are unacceptable in listed buildings.
  • Decorative features such as mouldings and ironwork should always be kept.
  • Consent should be sought for satellite dishes and gas meter boxes.
  • Installing a damp proof course needs special care.

Repairs which do not involve any change do not need consent but you should be sure that they are necessary. For example, it is often cheaper as well as more sympathetic to repair rather than replace windows.


In some cases painting a listed building can require consent, and as a general rule care should be taken to use appropriate colours and paint types with traditionalrendered or plastered buildings. Please check before carrying out any repainting.

How to Obtain Consent

The procedure for obtaining listed building consent is similar to that for obtaining planning permission. Currently, no fees are payable. An application on forms obtained from the Planning Department must be accompanied by sufficient details to enable your application to be processed, and you may therefore wish to use an agent experienced with historic buildings and good conservation practice. He will also be able to prepare a specification of repair works and materials.
Normally, eight weeks are required to process a listed building consent application, but this process can be longer in complex cases. It is important to apply early, so that there is no risk of a decision still being awaited when works are scheduled to commence. Any works carried out before consent is granted may have to be undone and the building restored to its original condition at your expense. 

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