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Day to Day Conveyancing: Does Your House Make The Grade?

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I grew up in a house that was built in 1667. My grandparents had painstakingly and lovingly restored it, but, because it was a Grade II listed building, it still had the original horse hair plaster on many of the stone walls. And we had to keep it.

Damp doesn’t begin to cover it.

There were various other aspects of the house we couldn’t alter. When the 35 windows needed replacing, they had to be hand made to specific requirements – no super insulating triple glazing for us!

This minefield of planning permission and listed-building consent is tricky and tied up in red tape.

However, new planning rules could make things a lot simpler.


What is a listed building?

Any building built before 1700 and still in anything like its original condition is automatically listed. Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 are listed.

A structure has to be at least 30 years old to be considered. Currently there are approximately 375,000 in England.

There are three grades:

Grade I:           Buildings of exceptional interest. E.g. Clifton Suspension Bridge, The Palace of Westminster

Grade II*:         Buildings that are particularly important of more than special interest. E.g. Battersea Power Station

Grade II:          Buildings that are nationally important and of special interest. E.g. BT Tower


Listed Buildings: The rules so far

If you want to make significant alterations to a listed building you have to apply to the local planning authority for Listed Building Consent. This is a requirement on top of planning permission. It is required for all works of demolition, alteration or extension that affects the character of a building of special architectural or historic interest.

It applies to all parts of the building, inside and out and connected out buildings, covered by the listing. The decision is down to local planning officers. The applications can take between 8 and 13 weeks to be decided upon. Including a 21 day consultation period where neighbours and other interested parties are consulted.

In some circumstances involving Grade I or II* buildings, English Heritage are called in for expert advice.

If you plan to make alterations in stages over a long time frame, you would have to apply for a certificate of consent for each stage.

Carrying out works on a listed building without having previously applied for listed building consent is a criminal offence punishable by a £10,000 fine and/or a prison sentence. You can also be made to undo all of the work. These measures apply to you even if the work was undertaken by a previous owner.


What’s new for Listed Buildings?

New rules have been brought in under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and took effect on 25th June 2014. They are unlikely to allow you to have UPVC windows or demolish a building, but they will make applications and decisions much more streamlined as they set clear guidelines on what is and isn’t covered by listed building consent.

There will be clarity on what interior features of the property are covered by the listed status.   

A Certificate of Lawfulness can now be issued to properties that state you do not need to apply for Listed Building Consent for certain works, e.g. you do not need to apply for permission to alter a modern extension on a 18th century house.

Local planning authorities also have the power to pass local Listed Building Consent Orders to multiple properties e.g. a row of terraced houses could all be allowed similar works done to them without individual permission.

If you were to do works over a few years, one Listed Building Consent would cover all works.


Where can I find out more about listed buildings?

The English Heritage website has a lot of information on listed buildings; general information, how a building becomes listed, a database of all the buildings currently listed. They also have some guidance on procedures and who to contact.

There is a group that offers advice and insurance to owners. They are the Listed Property Owners Club and they organise The Listed Property Show every February.

Also, if you are in the mood for something very educational here is the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 s.60 which outlines all the new changes.

So, if you are thinking about replacing any tiles of the roof of your lovely 17th century cottage STOP! Make sure you’ve spoken to you local planning authority and if necessary have applied for listed building consent.

What’s worse; an 8 week wait or a £10,000 fine?