Listed Buildings and What You Need to Know Today
Listed buildings are divided into three grades: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. English Heritage* is the body that advises the government on listing, but the Department of Media, Culture and Sport makes the final decision. Once a building is listed, its owners will deal with English Heritage.
A Grade I-listed building is considered to be of ‘exceptional’ architectural or historical interest. This may include examples of craftsmanship or other decorative techniques, or ‘group value’ where it is part of a series of buildings designed to sit together, as in a close, or even a whole village.
Although a Grade I-listed building can be a status symbol for the owner, it can also be extremely costly to maintain, as English Heritage* has the right to insist that certain works are carried out at your expense in order to maintain the condition and character of the building. It is not unheard of for orders to be made to demolish some offending add-ons which have been detected and diagnosed as inappropriate; restoring the building to its original use is likely to be a condition when you purchase a Grade I-listed house. All works subject to Listed Building Consent are VAT exempt. Contact English Heritage for more details.
Buildings in this category have the same features as a Grade I listed building, but are considered ‘particularly’ rather than ‘exceptionally’ important.
Grade II status is awarded to buildings which are of ‘special interest’ and which warrant ‘every effort to preserve them’. In practice this can mean that they have a rarity value, great age, an unusual location, or are classic examples of a type.
Grade II-listed buildings are reasonably common in the residential sector (this may include structures such as walls and outbuildings within the boundaries of the property that is listed). Although the rules governing alterations are lighter than for Grade I, all internal and external alterations still require the approval of English Heritage, or possibly your local authority if it has acquired this overseeing role. Increasingly, English Heritage* and other planning authorities are taking a strict conservationist stance with regard to the nation’s architectural heritage, which is, after all, a finite resource. You may find that you encounter serious opposition even to changing the use of a room, or moving an internal non-structural partition wall. However, some people find that on the ground their local Conservation Officer is flexible and open-minded about internal alterations and may allow you to, say, remove internal walls, change the position of doorways or move a bathroom to another room.
Applying for listed building consent
If you are planning alterations you should approach English Heritage* or your local authority. Obtaining listed building consent (LBC) is generally considered to be more problematic than getting . The process is supposed to take roughly eight weeks, but it can take longer. This may be something to farm out to a specialist, such as a local planning consultant who has specific experience in negotiating for local listed building consent Conservation Areas
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’shas responsibility for Conservation Areas, defined as ‘areas of special architectural or historical interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. Such areas are designated by local planning authorities and are often, though not always, centred around listed buildings. This means that even if your house is not listed, if it is in a Conservation Area then planners are likely to want to keep things exactly the way they are. Dormer windows may be forbidden unless a very good case can be made — for example, most of your neighbours already have them — and even features such as hedges and trees are covered, which can affect your planning (although a tree can be cut down if it is in a dangerous state or causes a hazard).
Sometimes, a local authority may issue an ‘Article 4 Direction’ in a Conservation Area which, in effect, removes some or all of your permitted, meaning you will need planning permission for a wider range of improvements.