Daniel Metcalfe
Copyright Daniel Metcalfe 2013

A guide to listed building ownership

March 25, 2014

I am often asked what listing means and what work can be undertaken to a building that has received this protected status. The short answer is that listing does not specifically preclude any work from being undertaken, but it must be carried out with the relevant consent. Many people wrongly assume that rear facades or the interiors are excluded from the listing. Examples of such exclusions are rare and, more often that not, the entire building and its grounds are afforded equal protection.

This sounds very onerous but often a listed building can be readily adapted or altered to suit modern needs. However this must be done with an understanding of the building‘s history and with a wish to preserve it for the future. Professional conservation architects such as our firm look at what elements of the building are original and should be preserved, and what are modern and can be altered or removed. Each building is different and each requires a tailored approach. However, there are some basic rules to follow:-

1) When purchasing a listed building, check out the planning history with the local authority. Once you purchase a listed building you become its custodian and are responsible for any illegal works; even those undertaken by former owners before your occupancy
2) Look at the listing document available at the English Heritage website. This can give clues to the state of the building when it was listed and often provides advice about what specifically makes it historically significant
3) Do not undertake any building works without consulting with the local conservation officer and/or applying for listed building consent.
4) Although some people might tell you that ‘only the front door is listed’, do not take this as the gospel truth. I have acted for several distraught owners who relied on this type of hear-say and ended up facing huge bills to correct destructive work that they completed illegally and without consent. Ignorance is no defence so . . . .
5) Employ a properly qualified professional with experience in conservation work to guide your design and advise you on consents and constraints. Search for the AABC website for a list of registered professionals able to work on such buildings or contact you local planning authority

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