What is a listed building?

When a building is described as ‘listed’, it means that it is included on a national list of buildings which are considered to be of sufficient historic or architectural interest to merit special protection.

Buildings comprise an important architectural or historical entity, or are a fine example of planning.

Listed buildings are graded according to their national importance:

  • Grade I The finest and most important
  • buildings/structures of exceptional national interest.
  • Grade II Buildings of exceptional quality or containing specific features.
  • Grade II Buildings of specific local interest and significance.

Is my building listed?

The Planning Section of the local council should hold copies of the statutory list and can advise you.

Prospective purchasers should be informed in the pre-contract searches. Owners of buildings that are newly listed receive written notification.

The effect of listing

A building or structure is listed in its entirety. There is no such thing as just a listed façade or interior. A building is described in the list but the description is not comprehensive and is for identification purposes only, although sometimes special internal or external features are mentioned.

The listing of a building applies not only to the building but also to any building within its curtilage. The curtilage is the garden or area attached to a house; buildings within it can include outbuildings, barns, stables, farm buildings, walls and gates. Please note that some buildings may have been curtilage buildings at the time of listing but have since been sold into separate ownership. They are still curtilage buildings and protected under the listing.

Repairs Notices and Urgent Works Notices

If the owner of a listed building allows it to fall into serious disrepair, the Council has powers under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to serve a Repairs Notice or an Urgent Works Notice on the owner, requiring him or her to carry out the work at their own expense, or giving the Council the right to do the work themselves and then charge the owner. In extreme cases, the Council can also force the owner to sell them the building at minimum cost. These powers are rarely implemented, but the Council will use them if a listed building is threatened, neglected or is willfully damaged.

The importance of internal features

Listing includes not only the main external features, such as the walls and roof, but also the internal features which are fixed to the building and contribute to the building’s historic character. For example, fireplaces, fitted cupboards, panelling, staircases and plasterwork are all protected, and Listed Building Consent must be sought before altering or removing these items. Some owners believe that the list description available in the Statutory List contains all of the ‘listed’ features, but these descriptions are for identification purposes only. Owners or occupiers are advised to contact the Council’s Conservation Officer before carrying out any works.

Buildings Extensions to listed

Listed buildings are interesting because they show how the design and layout of buildings has changed over the years.  Extensions to such buildings must take their original plan form, scale and use of materials into account, and should be carefully designed so as not to dominate the original structure. 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 damage the character of the original building and that consent should not be given. Potential purchasers of listed buildings are, therefore, advised to consider the suitability of the existing building for their purposes before they buy it, or, alternatively, to submit an application for their required alterations before they purchase, to avoid disappointment if their proposals are rejected.
Repairs to listed buildings using traditional materials and building techniques on a ‘like-for-like’ basis will not usually require listed building consent, but it is always advisable to check with the Council before commencing work.

If an application is asked for, you are advised to appoint a professionally qualified person to prepare the necessary drawings and to supervise the works on site.

Further advice can be obtained from the Council about suitable repair techniques.

What work requires Listed Building Consent?

Listed Building Consent will be needed if you want to alter, extend or demolish any part of a building or buildings within its curtilage in any way that changes its character.  Alterations include not only extensions, additions and demolitions, but also things such as:

  • New roofing materials
  • New or replacement windows or doors
  • Rendering or re-rendering
  • New guttering
  • Removal of chimneys, fireplaces, floors or plaster
  • Work to garden walls; and
  • Work to curtilage buildings.
  • Extensions and demolitions.
  • Repairs not carried out in matching materials (e.g. changing from a handmade clay tile to a machine-made tile).
  • 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 and fireplaces.
  • Changes to the plan form of internal rooms (e.g. blocking-up door openings, removing partitions or staircases).
  • Timber treatment where this involves destructive techniques such as sandblasting.
  • New pipework/plumbing (where this has an impact on the listed building).
  • Replacement windows including double glazing.
  • Insertion of suspended ceilings or removal of existing ceilings.
  • Fitting of new ovens/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.

Even relatively minor work, such as painting, may affect the character of the building and require consent. It is a criminal offence to carry out work to a listed building without consent, and the owner can be required to reinstate the building to its former state, and may incur heavy penalties in the form of a large fine or even imprisonment.

This list is by no means comprehensive and is intended for guidance only. If you are in any doubt as to whether you need Listed Building Consent, please contact the Conservation Officer before you start the work.

Don’t forget that it is a criminal offence to alter a listed building without first obtaining listed building consent and the owner, his or her agent, and the builder can all be held responsible. Ignorance of the law is no defence and new owners should be told by their solicitor at the time of purchase that the building is listed, as this information will show up on the solicitor’s searches.

Compliance with Building Regulations does not mean that the work is acceptable from a listed building point of view and a separate application for Listed Building Consent may be needed. For further information on Building Regulations, contact the Council’s Building Control Section,

Buying or selling a listed building can be complex. If you have specific questions or concerns about buying or selling a listed building, it is advisable to seek legal advice.

Please note that the information provided is for guidance purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.