Laura Finnigan, who leads the Residential Property team at Thompson Smith and Puxon discusses listed buildings.

A listed building is a building that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest kept under the Planning (ListedBuildingsand Conservation Areas) Act 1990. English Heritage is responsible for designating buildings for listing in England and there are three grades of listing:

  1. Buildings listed as Grade I are buildings of exceptional interest and are sometimes considered to be internationally important.  Grade I listing affects only a small proportion of properties.
  2. Buildings listed as Grade II* are buildings that are of more than special Interest.  Again, Grade II* listing only affects a small proportion of properties.
  3. Buildings listed as Grade II are nationally important and of special interest. Grade II is the most common grade of listing.

If you own or are considering buying a listed building it is important to note that additional consents will be required from the local authority before works can be carried out to the property.  You will need listed building consent for most internal works to the building as well as for any external alterations or extensions that would not normally require planning permission. Listed buildings consent will also be required if a listed building is to be wholly or partly demolished.  As part of the procedure for obtaining listed buildings consent it may also be necessary to obtain the approval of English Heritage to any proposal.

Carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence. Liability for the offence does not transfer to a subsequent owner (if you were to purchase a listed building on which unauthorised works had been carried out without consent the offence does not transfer to you). That said, if unauthorised works are carried out to a listed building, the planning authority has the power to take enforcement action and insist that the property is reinstated to its original form.

There is no time limit for enforcement action to be taken by the planning department.  We would therefore always recommend that if you are purchasing a listed building, during the course of the purchase and prior to exchange you obtain a copy of the listing from English Heritage and attend the property with a surveyor to check that no unauthorised works have been carried out.

The English Heritage website provides lots of detailed information on listed buildings.  If you are planning to carry out works to your listed building I would strongly recommend that you discuss the works with the planning authority to ensure that consent can be obtained, before proceeding any further.