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Things to know before working in Listed Building Projects

There are around 400,000 listed buildings in England. Working in London and the Home Counties, we’ve come across many of these over years of varying degrees and our portfolio contains a number of extensions and refurbishments to statutory listed and locally listed as well as properties in conservation areas. When it comes to undertaking work on a listed building, extra consideration needs to be taken no matter how big or small. There are a few very important things to know before working on a listed building project:

Is my building listed?

Historic England (formerly English Heritage) keeps a register of all listed building entries in England. If a building is considered to be of special architectural or historic interest, it will be included in a list of such buildings. Applications for new entries as well as removal or amendments to an existing entry are made to Historic England for their recommendation to the Secretary of State who makes the final decision. For buildings to be added to the list, each building is assessed on a set of criteria which can be found on Historic England’s website.

Local listings are decided upon by Local Authorities for buildings not on Historic England’s database. These are known as Locally Listed Buildings or Buildings of Townscape Merit.

Which type of listing?

There are three types of statutory listing. Starting with the highest listing:

Grade I – are of exceptional interest. Just 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I. Examples include St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

Grade II* – are particularly important buildings of more special interest. 5.8% of listed buildings are in this class.

Grade II – are of special interest warranting every effort to preserve them. Over 90% of all listed buildings on the register are in this grade.

To find out if your building is listed, you can search Historic England’s website:

To find out if your building is locally listed, search the local planning authority’s database which may also identify any necessary listed building consent required and other heritage constraints such as conservation areas, archaeological priority areas etc.

What does this mean for my listed building?

Firstly, this doesn’t prohibit works to your property however, changes are more limited compared to regular non-listed buildings, and an application to the local planning authority for ‘Listed Building Consent’ must be approved before starting works.

Listed Building are protected by law and unauthorised works is a criminal offence which can result in extensive fines, criminal record and even imprisonment and so alterations to your listed building must be treated with extreme care and diligence as well as a knowledge of the processes involved.

Clients intending on doing works to listed buildings should consider this type of work requires the correct expertise and can often take longer and be more expensive than conventional buildings for example;

Listed Building Architects Fees – often a higher fee due to the level of expertise required and significant time spent detailing drawings and liaising with the council’s heritage officer.

Specialist Reports- often required such as input from Heritage experts.

Materials – often come at a premium and require specialist manufacturers and installation.

Having said that, the local authority should a balanced approach to applications for listed building consent and assess the impact any works may or may not have on the listed building. Different heritage assets are protected in different ways. Conservation involves the management of change to significant places and can be neutral or beneficial in its effect on heritage values so long as there is no harm. Sufficient information to understand the impacts of the proposal on the building should be provided which demonstrate the proposals ability to not cause harm or where the proposal can enhance or further reveal heritage through design and execution which will be valued now and in future. Solutions should take account of the long term consequences of the changes proposed and ensure they do not prejudice alternative solutions in future. There are a number of guidance documents available on Historic England’s website which provide useful advice before embarking on works to a listed building.

It should also note that planning permission may be required in addition to listed building consent.

We advise clients to consider pre-application advice before making a formal application. Positive engagement with the Council’s heritage officer from an early stage provides an opportunity for feedback to help shape the formal submission proposal and ultimately its success.

The key to successful works to listed building lies in knowledge and expertise; Understanding the listing of your buildings, seeking professional advice and forming a response appropriate to the heritage of the building.

Together with our team of listed building Architects, we have worked successfully with a number of specialist heritage consultants as well as statutory and local bodies. To get in touch about your listed building project, contact our team of Architects or call us on 020 8944 1180.

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