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Buying a listed building


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A listed building is one that has been awarded special status due to its architectural or historical interest. A listed building is afforded certain protections from alterations that may cause the reason for its interest to be damaged in some way. The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. It is a way of preserving a little slice of history for future generations.

Is my Home Listed?

All buildings that bear some resemblance to their original condition, and which were constructed before 1700, are automatically listed. In fact, the majority of buildings built up to 1840 are listed. More modern constructions can be listed too, but buildings generally have to be at least 30 years old to be eligible for the status.

Your local authority planning department keeps an up-to-date list of properties in your area that are listed. The information can also be sourced from your county council, or the local reference library. Helpfully, there is also a national Listed Buildings Information Service which can send you a copy of the listing for any individual building.

What Does It Mean to Own One?

buying a listed buildingTo own a listed building can be a pleasure and a pain. On the up-side you are the owner of a genuine piece of history, which can add value to the building. If you want to upgrade or alter your building in any way, however, you are subject to certain restrictions that oblige you to preserve certain aspects of the property. And if it is deemed that you are not taking the proper action to preserve you building, and it is falling into disrepair, the local authority can issue a compulsory “repairs notice” to force you into completing works deemed necessary. If you don’t comply, they can force you to sell the building to them. Happily, this is not a regular occurrence!

Alterations are not often prohibited altogether, and grants are sometimes available for work from English Heritage or the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Grants are more likely to be offered on buildings listed as Grade 1, than on those with Grade 2* or Grade 2 listed status. The different listed status grades are:

  • Grade 1 – Building of exceptional interest. Few of these are homes. Accounts for only around 2.5% of all listed buildings
  • Grade 2* – Especially important buildings, deemed to be of more than special interest. Accounts for around 5.5% of all listed buildings
  • Grade 2 – Buildings of special interest.  This grade applies to the majority of listed buildings

What Can I Do, and What Is Prohibited?

Each building is judged on its own merits, but as a general rule consent is required for any major internal works, or external work that will alter its appearance. Examples would include moving internal walls, changing a fireplace, replacing windows and doors, and effecting repairs to the roof structure. Like-for-like minor repairs are often allowed without special permission, but it is always best to check.

If you are planning alterations to a listed building, it is advisable to consult with your local authority and the relevant heritage body prior to making an application for consent. Getting the right authorities on board before you start will set you off on the right track, and help to prevent problems arising later. A ruling on applications is usually given within 8-12 weeks, and in the case of a refusal you have a 6 month appeal window. Working without consent is a criminal offence, and the local authority has the power to insist that unauthorised work is undone. Such activity can also make a property very difficult to resell.




About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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