Listed building

A listed building refers to any property in the United Kingdom that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. It can also be referred to as a listed structure.

Listing a building means protection of special architectural designs and properties of historic interest. The property is accorded special care during planning and renovations to ensure that the structure is maintained for future generations. A building’s age is, therefore, vital in the listing applications and approvals process.

Buildings erected before and between 1700 and 1840 that still retain their original condition to some degree are listed. Buildings erected from 1945 and beyond, however, have to undergo a strenuous selection process. On a general scale, buildings have to be at least 30 years old to be considered eligible for listing.

A listed building can only extended, altered or demolished after obtaining permission from the local planning authority. The local planning authority consults with the relevant government agencies before issuing permissions for any major changes to notable listed structures. For listed buildings in England and Wales, the national amenity society equally has to be notified about any projects on a listed property that will involve some degree of demolition.

Listed buildings in use for worship are exempted from standard listed building controls but the religious bodies are required to seek special permissions relevant to them.

What is the Process for Listing a Building in the UK?

There are two main ways to get a building listed in the UK. Firstly, members of the public are allowed to nominate a building for listing consideration and secondly, the relevant conservation bodies in different parts of the UK can automatically nominate a building.

The nominations and recommendations are made to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. The body makes the final decision on whether a building qualifies to be classified as listed or not.

How to find out if a property is listed

To find out if a property is listed, visit relevant website for the supervisory body. In England, The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) holds all the relevant information.

The Criteria for Listing a Building

The criteria for listing cover a selection of factors such as historic interests, historical relationships with significant people and events, and historical architectural design. In some cases, buildings that do not qualify for listing may be designated as listed if they are part of a group that is qualified. Buildings spread over a large area that do not quite meet all the criteria for listing can still be protected under the term, conservation area.

Specific factors considered in listing a building include:

  1. National Interest: This targets regional buildings that are significant and hold some sense of national pride.
  2. Aesthetic Interests: This targets buildings that have unique designs. However, a building can still be listed without special visual appeal if it also holds some economic or social history.
  3. Age and rarity: This is the most important factor and is targeted at protecting as many historic buildings as possible. Buildings completed pre-1700 will be listed if a sizeable proportion of the original fabric remains. More careful selection is used for buildings designed after 1840 while buildings completed after 1945 have to undergo a rigorous selection process. Buildings that are less than 30 years old can only be listed if they are deemed to be of outstanding quality and under some threat.

What Are The Categories of Listed Buildings?

It is important to note that buildings are not the only occupants of the listings. Other architectural pieces such as war memorials, milestones, sculptures, monuments and bridges are also listed. The overall categories vary from place to place in the United Kingdom but the underlying principles are the same. The main categories are Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II.

  1. Grade II buildings are of special interest and is the most likely category for a homeowner. 92% of all listed buildings fall under this category or its equivalent.
  2. Grade II* buildings are important buildings that hold more than special interest. Around 5.8% of listed buildings qualify as  Grade II*
  3. Grade I buildings are of the highest level of interest. Only 2.5% of listed buildings qualify under this.

How Many Listed Buildings Exist in the UK?

The total number of listed buildings in the UK is unknown due to the nature of the listing process. A row of terraced houses, for example, may be counted as one in the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) database but an equivalent structure in Scotland will be counted as individual units. Experts’ estimates, however, place the number of listed buildings in the UK at around 1.5 million structures with around 500,000 listings in the NHLE database.

How Listing Affects You

Listing doesn’t equate to preservation. This means that the building is not frozen against change but instead, consent must be sought before changes can be applied to the building. This is important to ensure that vital characteristics that make a building of special interest are retained.

As an owner of a listed building, you might be under compulsion to maintain it. Failing to carry out maintenance or deviating from authorised alterations can lead to prosecution. During alterations and maintenance, owners can be mandated to use specific techniques and materials.

How Can Listed Buildings Be Used?

There is no limit on how listed buildings can be used. They can be altered, extended or demolished in accordance with government planning approvals.  Listed building consent is used to ensure that the historic significance of a site is properly balanced against other factors such as its condition, viability or function.

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Published on 8th June 2017

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