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Home > Planning > Heritage > Guidance on owning historic buildings

Guidance on owning historic buildings

Listing a building is a mark and celebration of its special historic and architectural interest. It also brings it under consideration within the planning system, so that it can be protected.

Listed Buildings are not always buildings. They can be a range of historically or architecturally interesting structures.

Owning a listed building involves caring for a part of the country’s heritage. This comes with certain responsibilities.

This webpage describes the concerns that historical building owners come across and offers suggestions for resolving them. 

The following describe a series of issues and concerns that owners of historic buildings sometimes come across, and suggestions for ways to resolve them. Our Heritage Team has collected the information from their own members and from recognised experts in the field.

Is ‘Listed Building Consent’ required?

If your property is listed, all parts of the building - inside and out, back and front, anything attached to it - are protected.

This applies, regardless of whether items are mentioned in the official Historic England list description. The list description is not a definitive guide. Its only legal function is to identify the building beyond doubt.

Deciding what alterations affect character can be difficult as it is a matter of fact and degree. In each case, it often comes down to professional judgement.

Buildings can also be listed because of their relationship with the primary listed building on the site. This view is based on Section 1(5) of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990

Whether a building is ‘curtilage’ listed or not is something that requires research. It might involve information contained within deeds and historic maps or plans.

The Heritage Team will determine what changes affect the special historic and architectural character of a listed building.

These changes require Listed Building Consent (LBC) in line with Part 1, Section 7 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990

Carrying out works without consent could be a criminal offence.

If such works have been carried out to a building without consent, the owner is responsible for putting things right. This might include reversing the works, or carrying out new works that the Council requests (at your own expense).

The unique nature of all listed buildings makes it difficult to answer general questions.

What might be allowed in one building, might be completely unacceptable in another, due to their different origins and histories.

However, there are elements of work that tend not to need consent.

Works that usually do not need Listed Building Consent

  • rewiring, unless it involves structural alterations
  • new heating systems and new radiators. However if a new external flue or boiler is needed, that is very likely to need some sort of consent or permission
  • repainting walls, or decorating windows and external doors, in the same colour as the existing one. Changing the external colour of a listed building?
  • 'like for like repair' on a very small scale and when using matching materials and methods. The extent of the repair should be discussed with the Heritage Team

 ‘Like for like’ is a phrase often used in connection with listed buildings, but it is sometimes wrongly used. The phrase ‘like for like’ does not appear anywhere in the relevant legislation, which is the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990

Making a Listed Building Consent application

At present, there is no fee for an LBC application.

You can do the drawings yourself if you wish, but they must be accurate and to a recognised scale.

The other documents you must provide are a Heritage Statement and Design and Access Statement. The law states that you must submit these with every LBC application.

They do not need to be complicated, but you must supply enough information under each headings.

If these documents are not provided, the Local Planning Authority will not be able to validate the application.

Curtilage listed buildings

Buildings and structures within the curtilage of listed buildings may also be protected by listed building legislation. They are referred to as curtilage listed buildings/structures.

These can include walls, outbuildings, backhouses and dairies. The criteria for determining whether an outbuilding or structure is curtilage listed is dependent upon 3 tests:

  1. Was the building or structure erected before 1948?
  2. Was the building or structure in the same ownership as the principle listed asset at the time of listing?
  3. Did the building or structure have an ancillary relationship with the principle listed asset at the time of listing?

Alterations or extensions to curtilage listed buildings or structures may also require LBC. This is subject to their curtilage relationship to the primary listed building - this will need to be established before any work begins.

The Heritage Team should be contacted before an application is submitted, to help establish whether an outbuilding has the same listed status as the primary building.

Planning permission may also be required.

Linking a curtilage building to a host building will require LBC and planning permission.

Development within the curtilage of a listed building

The construction of new buildings, structures or enclosures within the curtilage of listed buildings will require planning permission. It will not need LBC, unless the new structure is attached to the listed building.

The Heritage Team's support for this form of application will depend on:

  • scale
  • massing
  • articulation
  • location of the proposal
  • exact details of materials and sections

Internal alterations

Read our guide on Internal alterations 

The guidance includes information about:

  • modernising kitchens and bathrooms
  • removing ceilings to expose beams
  • removing walls
  • uncovering or exposing an earlier fireplace
  • sole plate and timber-frame repairs, removal of cement render and re-rendering in lime
  • new ground floor and/or underfloor heating
  • insect infestation
  • curing a damp problem

External alterations

Read our guide on External alterations

The guidance includes information about:

Additional information

VAT

VAT is no longer reclaimable on any works to listed buildings, owing to changes made in the 2010 Budget.

Unauthorised works

You must not carry out works to a listed building that would require LBC, without first getting that consent.

This is classed as a criminal offence under Part I, Chapter II, Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990

A person found guilty of such an offence shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

It's vital that the relevant consent is obtained from the Local Planning Authority (PLA) before carrying out any works that require it.

It's also in your interests as a homeowner, to ensure consents are obtained. This should avoid any problems with LPA searches when selling the property; this can hold up a sale.

Where there is evidence or suspicion to suggest unauthorised works have been carried out, it will be investigated by the LPA Planning Enforcement team.

This can result in formal enforcement action where necessary - including prosecution, if appropriate.

Visit our Planning enforcement section for more information.