Listed Building?

What can I do to my Listed building?

At Cityzen we work on a lot of Listed properties, so we’re used to advising building owners as to what work can be done to a Listed building. We have worked on Listed hotels offices and won a 2018 Sussex Heritage Trust award for one of our Listed domestic projects, showing that with the right design team, contractor and client we can make a tired Listed building shine. You can read all about the project here.

Late 2020 we finished a rebuild to a Listed building in central Brighton which was slowly falling apart, You can read more about it here  and 2021 we got planning on an Listed hostel on brighton sea front, which you can read more about it here 

Often people will tell us that their building is a Listed and they want to change the windows / take a wall out / change the skirting boards, and ask, “that doesn’t need consent, does it?”

Let’s start by explaining what a Listed building is:

“A ‘listed building’ is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest and included on a special register, called the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.” (Planning Portal guidance notes)

“Listing helps to acknowledge and understand our shared history. It marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system so that some thought will be taken about its future. ” (Historic England 2015)

Buildings are graded in terms of historical significance – Grade II, Grade II* and Grade I being the most protected.

Listing usually applies to the whole building and the surrounding area up to and including the boundary walls of the site (referred to as the curtilage). This also includes “modern” buildings that might have been added to the site; you may think these aren’t part of the listing, but they are – we’ve had a project where a 1960s asbestos garage was fought over!

What work can I do to my Listed building?

What you can do to a Listed building depends a lot of factors, such as its historic significance, its function, its condition or if it is important in terms of its materials.

Your Local Authority Conservation Officer is in charge of making the decisions based on their experience and knowledge of the building. If the building is significant they also may bring in experts from Historic England.

What work requires Listed Building Consent?

Any works which impact on the fabric, appearance or layout of the building or change anything within the site – pretty much everything!

This includes:

  • Any extensions and demolitions.
  • Where repairs are to be carried out using materials that are not exactly the same as the existing material (e.g. changing from a hand-made clay tile to a machine-made tile, or a lime plaster to a gypsum plaster).
  • Changing of any features like chimney stacks or walls.
  • Sand, bead or vapour-blasting of any material i.e stonework, brickwork and timbers (internal and external).
  • Exposing timbers and brickwork previously hidden/ plastered over/ boarded in.
  • Stripping out plasterwork (where it is not being replaced as original), especially lath and plaster!
  • Removal or alteration of internal features such as doors, cupboards, panelling, fireplaces, coving, skirting or dado rails.
  • Changes to the plan form of internal rooms (e.g. blocking-up door openings, removing partitions or staircases).
  • Timber treatment where this involves destructive techniques or replacement.
  • New plumbing or electrics, where this has an impact on the listed building (e.g. chasing in wires and pipes).
  • Replacement windows including double glazing.
  • Insertion of suspended ceilings.
  • Fitting of new ovens and stoves, which require new flues.
  • Changes in external colour or appearance.

(This list is by no means comprehensive and for guidance purposes only!)

Buyer beware: you are the custodian of a historic asset and it is a criminal offence to alter a building without Listed Building Consent. Doing so can result in a fine, being enforced to put the building back to the original state, or even a prison sentence for both the owner and the builder!

At Cityzen, we look to help Listed building owners to realise their plans but also to understand that they own a heritage asset, which will be there long after we are.

What’s involved in getting planning permission for a Listed building?

The legislation states:

‘Such an application shall be made in such form as the authority may require and shall contain:

(a) sufficient particulars to identify the building to which it relates, including a plan

(b) such other plans and drawings as are necessary to describe the works which are the subject of the application, and

(c) such other particulars as may be required by the authority.’

Planning Policy Guidance 15 (PPG15) provides a full statement of Government policies for the identification and protection of historic buildings, and includes the following:

B.3 Applications must be made in triplicate on a form issued by the local authority. Section 10(2) of the Act requires that they include sufficient particulars, including a plan, to identify the building in question and such other plans and drawings as are necessary to describe the works for which consent is sought. For all but the simplest work this should normally mean measured drawings of all floor plans and external or internal elevations affected by the work proposed. There should be two sets of such drawings showing the structure before work and the altered structure or new development to replace it after the proposed work. The inclusion of photographs can be particularly helpful – of all elevations in demolition cases, or of the part of the building affected (interior or exterior) in alteration and extension cases. The Act empowers an authority to seek such particulars as it requires and an authority should certainly seek any particulars necessary to ensure that it has a full understanding of the impact of a proposal on the character of the building in question. An authority should not accept an application for consideration until it has sufficient information to provide such understanding.’

Gaining Listed Building Consent can often be a difficult, expensive and lengthy process. More design detail and drawings are required at an early stage and significant justification is required, potentially involving the need to procure archaeological reports and heritage statements to support your Listed Building Consent application. But every Council is different and every conservation officer will interpret the local needs and the needs of your asset accordingly.

Any work to be done to a Listed building should be carefully considered before work is started. It is a heritage asset, so you have to be able to justify why the changes are appropriate – not just because you want to make it bigger or you don’t like the colour!

On the flip side, owning a Listed building can be very rewarding and provide you with a unique piece of history on which you can make your mark, which will outlast us all.

If you have a Listed building and want to know more about how we can help you realise your goals and protect your asset for future generations, or just to help you conserve what’s there, do give us a call on 01273 915010 or drop us an email:

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