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Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

Listed buildings, and those  buildings which stand within a conservation area, are covered by protective legislation.  The law stipulates that before certain works or alterations are carried out on  any such building, it is necessary to obtain the appropriate consent; failure  to do this constitutes a criminal offence.

This factsheet provides general information and guidance on  the principles of listed buildings and conservation areas; please note that although  similar in most respects, legislation and planning laws are subject to  variations across the different areas of the UK.

The classification system

Listed buildings
Listed buildings are those  properties which are included on a Government list of buildings designated as  being of special architectural or historic interest. Factors which may  influence the listing of a building might include its age, rarity,  architectural merit, method of construction, and whether it has played a significant  role in a historical event or in the life of a key figure.

Properties are graded according to  the following categories (note that the grades are replaced by alphabetical  references in Scotland and Northern Ireland):

  • Grade I: this refers  to buildings of exceptional interest, many of which are major stately homes or  other key historic buildings

  • Grade II*: these are designated  as buildings of more than special interest

  • Grade II: these are classed  as buildings of special interest, and account for the vast majority of listed  buildings

As a general rule, all buildings  which were built before 1700 and which maintain elements of their original  condition are automatically listed, and buildings constructed between 1700 and  1840 are also likely to be listed.

Consent must be obtained for alterations  to any listed buildings, regardless of their grading, and the listing covers  the interior (including in some cases fixtures and fittings), as well as the  exterior features of the building.

Conservation areas
Conservation areas are those areas  which are designated as being of special architectural or historical  significance. The nature of conservation areas can vary considerably, from town  and city centres, to small mining villages, industrial buildings, country  houses and canals.

Conservation areas are designated  by local authorities, with the key aim of preserving or enhancing the special  character or appearance of an area, with reference to both local and regional  criteria. Within a designated conservation area, the following actions are  restricted by law:

  • Demolition

  • Minor developments

  • Felling, topping or lopping trees

Applying for consent

Applications for consent should be  made to the local planning authority, who will then inform any relevant  officers or organisations (such as English Heritage, Historic Scotland, or  Cadw), as appropriate. The application form will set out any accompanying information  which is required. This will usually include a site plan, a description of the  works, and a set of scale drawings.

It is important to note that the  actual designation of a listed building or conservation area cannot generally  be contested. However, you do have the right to appeal against a refusal to  grant listed building consent, or against the conditions which may be attached  to a consent.

As a general guide, the different  types of consent which may be required for alteration or demolition works (and  in some cases repairs and maintenance, or a change of use) are as follows:

  • Scheduled monument consent – this covers any works affecting a scheduled ancient  monument or the grounds surrounding the monument

  • Listed building consent – this applies to any demolition, alteration or extension works carried out to  a listed building, any ancillary buildings or structures, and any objects or structures  within its curtilage which have formed part of the land since before 1 July 1948; this might  include garden features such as dovecotes and garden walls. Both listed  building consent and planning permission may be required for any new buildings  erected on a listed building site, and for some alterations to a listed  building which would normally require planning permission

  • Conservation area consent – this governs the demolition or substantial demolition of  a building located within a conservation area. The designation of a  conservation area also covers trees, whether or not they are protected by a  tree preservation order (TPO). A TPO makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop,  uproot, intentionally damage or destroy a protected tree or group of trees  without seeking the appropriate permission from the local authority

  • Planning permission may also be required for building works and alterations to buildings which  stand within a conservation area. The 'permitted development rights', which automatically  give permission for certain minor alterations to 'single family houses' which  are outside a conservation area, may be more restricted for those properties within  a conservation area

Should any alteration or  demolition works be carried out without the appropriate permission, and these  works affect the character of a listed building as a building of special architectural  or historic interest (internally or externally), or that of a building in a  conservation area, the owner, developer and contractor are liable to be  prosecuted, and could face a fine and even imprisonment.

It is also worth noting that owners  of listed buildings are responsible for maintaining that building and action  can be taken against them, should they fail to do so. At the same time, they  must ensure that they obtain the appropriate consent for carrying out  maintenance and repair work.

The rules governing listed  buildings and conservation areas can be complex. It is also important to ascertain  whether a property or area of land which may not currently be listed or fall  within a conservation area could be subject to the legislation in the future,  particularly if the property or land abuts an existing conservation area. It is  therefore advisable to seek assistance from a legal professional before  beginning any building works or alterations to a property which may be affected  by the legislation.

How We Can Help

We can offer advice and assistance  regarding listed buildings and conservation areas, and help to ensure that you  comply with the necessary legislation. Please contact us for further information.

For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.


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