Everything you need to know about… Making changes to listed buildings

Everything you need to know about… Making changes to listed buildings

To many, older properties offer characterful, unique and charming qualities that newer homes simply cannot, many people are also drawn to purchase an older property as they like the idea of owning a part of their area’s local history. All of this makes listed buildings particularly sort after by home-buyers. However, if you already own or are going to buy a property on the listed building register you need to be aware of the implications surrounding what changes you can make to it.

The list is designed to protect buildings from alterations that would be deemed to detract from their special historical or architectural interest. There are over 370,000 listed buildings in England, and although that includes various bridges, monuments and public buildings there are also a great many private residences on the list, meaning that if you own a particularly old building that retains many of its original features there is a good chance it is on the list. There are three levels which from of most to least importance goes; Grade I, II* and II,  (With 92% of listed building being Grade II).

Image Source: John Dickinson

Image Source: John Dickinson

So, what does this mean you can do with a listed building? Well, actually quite a lot! Historic England’s own website states that “Listed buildings are to be enjoyed and used, like any other building. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance” adding that “The local authority uses listed building consent to make decisions that balance the site's historic significance against other issues, such as its function, condition or viability”.  

It is however vital that you first get listed building consent before work is carried out, as without it your local authority could force you to fully reverse any changes you make, and even carry out a criminal prosecution against you. Many people assume that although you can apply for planning permission to make alterations to a listed building the actuality is that applications are nearly always rejected, but this is a fallacy. Local planning offices in England receive on average 32,000 listed building consent applications a year of which 90% are approved.

The real difficulty arises in knowing if you need to apply for listed building consent or not for the job that you have in mind. This is because with each building being unique there are no set overarching criteria. As a general rule you will need to get consent for any work which would alter the external appearance of the property or that would change it internally, this could include anything from carrying out an extension, knocking through internal walls or fireplaces, to replacing the windows or doors of the building. Whereas changes such as a ‘like for like’ repair may not require permission.

Image Source: Elliott Brown. License 

Image Source: Elliott Brown. License 

It is wise then that before carrying out any work on your listed property you first contact your local authority’s conversation officer to discuss what you actually intend to do in advance so they can advise you on any proposals you may need to submit to seek approval. If you do need to apply for Listed Building’s Consent you can do so online, with most local authority’s aiming to give a verdict within 8-11 weeks. If for any reason your application has been refused, then you have 6 months in which you can make an appeal.

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