If you own a property that is a listed building, you have something special. By definition. A listed property is one that has been selected to be placed on The Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Every owner of a Listed building will tell you what it means in practice, but for people looking to buy a listed building for the first time, it’s difficult to know what’s involved.
Here are a few common questions answered about Listed Buildings –
Q: Who selects a property to be listed?
A: The process is managed by throughout the UK by various bodies – English Heritage in England; Cadw in Wales; Historic Scotland covers Scotland and Ulster Architectural Society in Northern Ireland. They look for buildings that are of special architectural or historical interest. Listing gives them special protection. In the UK, there’s estimated to be around 500,000 buildings listed at present.
Q: Is a property chosen because of its age?
A: No, though the older a property is, the more likely it is to be listed. For example, all buildings built before 1700 which remain in something near their original form will be listed. Most, but not all, properties between 1700 and 1840 will be included. After that, it’s more a matter of selection. Only those properties which have very special interest (and possibly are under threat) are listed. The listing covers the whole building and sometimes can incorporate a number of buildings that together are of special interest.
Q: I’ve seen different grades of listing. What do these mean?
A: There’s 3 grades of listed property. In England/Wales, these are Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. Grade I tends to apply to properties of national importance, II* buildings of very special importance and Grade II is the most common grade of listing. In Scotland, the grades are A,B,C and are used to designate national, regional or local importance. Northern Ireland use the designations of A, B* and B.
Q: Does owning a Listed building mean you can’t make changes?
A: The whole purpose of listing is protection. This doesn’t mean that changes can’t be made (indeed, English Heritage say that extensions, alterations and improvements may all be possible) but the changes mustn’t detract from what makes that property special. Before making changes, you will need to get permission. This is via an application for Listed Building Consent. Do note that this is not the same as planning permission and may cover items for which normal planning would not be necessary. Repointing, painting over brickwork or even changes in the gardens that impact upon the property may all need consent – it is vital to check with your local planning authority. And it may be worthwhile, as often grants are available.
Q: What are my responsibilities if I own a Listed building?
A: As owner, you cannot allow your property to fall into disrepair worse than when you bought it and you must carry out all necessary works in accordance with consents. You may inherit works that have been carried out by previous owners without consent or inappropriately and you may be responsible for completing these, so pre-purchase advice from a good lawyer and surveyor is very important.
Q: What happens if I don’t comply?
A: Protection of our heritage is a serious business and failure to carry out necessary works or could ultimately result in enforcement notices and court action. So, it’s always best to ensure that you are doing the right things. Early conversations with the Listed Buildings/Conservation Officer are strongly recommended.
Owning a listed building is something to be proud of. Caring for it is a responsibility. For those taking on a listed building for the first time, it’s important to make sure that you know how to approach maintenance and improvement of your property. When you do, you can enjoy looking after your home, knowing that it’s something that’s special to the nation as well as to you.
Good professional advice is essential.