What Exactly is a “Listed” Building?

Richard Smeeton from Manage Your Block explains exactly what a listed building is.

Most people are aware of the existence of ‘listed” buildings and the fact that there are extra controls around what can and can’t be altered by their owners, but what does being ‘listed’ actually mean?

The List

Being listed means just that- the building is placed on an actual list held by Historic England called ‘The National Heritage List for England’ (NHLE).

Originating in 1882 (when the first powers of protection were established) this developed into what is known today as statutory ‘Listing’, just after the Second World War. The database was brought together and made publicly available online in 2011 before the public were invited to add their personal knowledge and photographs to listings via an Enriching the List initiative in 2016.

The List currently holds over 400,000 entries and is updated constantly by Historic England, bringing together all:

  • Scheduled monuments
  • Listed buildings
  • Registered landscapes
  • Registered battlefields
  • Protected wrecks

What Makes a Building or Site Special Enough to be Listed?

Buildings with ‘special architectural and historic interest’ can make it on to the list- partly to simply acknowledge and appreciate their importance but also so that they are considered differently within the planning system to make sure they’re protected.

Generally, the older a building is, and how rare it is to find similar surviving buildings of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed.

As a general guide, these buildings will make the List:

  • Buildings built before 1700 and that are in something like their original condition
  • Buildings built between 1700 and 1850
  • Buildings built between 1840 and 1945 and that are of ‘definite quality and character, including those by renowned architects’
  • Buildings built after 1945 that are ‘exceptionally important’
  • Buildings less than 30 years old are normally only listed if they are both ‘of outstanding quality and under threat’ as they haven’t yet stood the test of time

Historic England find areas/buildings to consider for addition to the list in 3 main ways:

  • Spot listing: this is where Historic England will look at individual buildings brought to their attention by local authorities, societies and members of the public
  • Area lists: the country is divided into areas which are then visited by expert fieldworkers who select the best buildings using specific criteria
  • Thematic listing: searches focussed on particular building types

Grading

Buildings deemed appropriate for the List are then graded based on their importance:

  • Grade I: These account for only 2% of the listed buildings and are of ‘exceptional interest’
  • Grade II*: These are particularly important buildings of more than just ‘special interest’, accounting for around 6% of listed buildings.
  • Grade II: Making up the bulk of the list with around 92% of the entries, these are buildings of ‘special interest’ which warrant preservation. Most domestic listed buildings fall into this category.

How Does Being Listed Affect Owners?

Historic England says “If you want to alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or even demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority.”

They advise that owners of listed buildings speak to their Local Authority Conservation Officer about any plans they have for alterations before any financial outlay is made and certainly before any work commences. The Officer should be able to advise if the plans are likely to achieve consent or not- a step that could save time, heartache and money. They may be able to advise tweaks to your plan that would make the request more likely to be accepted too.

The process for applying for consent is free and relatively straightforward- you can download an application form for Listed Building Consent for your local authority’s website and there is free guidance available on the Government’s Planning Portal website.

Head to our website for details of Manage Your Block and our sister company Block in a Box– tools specifically designed to make the lives of RMC directors simpler and easier.

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