Listed buildings in the UK represent those of historic or otherwise special importance. The listed building system is governed by Historic England and local planning authorities who can grant or remove listed building status. This is enforced by the Planning Act 1990 which makes it a criminal offence to make unpermitted changes to a listed building.
Listed buildings are protected from some types of modification or changes in order to preserve the historic nature of the building and its internal and external features. Any changes need to be stringently checked by local authorities to make sure they are in keeping with the history of the building and its character. This is called Listed Building Consent. Buildings can also be listed or delisted using Historic England’s Apply For Listing tool.
Note: Listing databases and processes are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Historic Environment Scotland is the Scottish database and listing authority and the Department for Communities is the Northern Irish listing authority and database. Both have their own search tools. CADW is the Welsh equivalent, also with its own search tool, advice and guidelines.
There are 3 types of graded listing.
Not necessarily considered of specific national importance but still protected under listed status, grade II accounts for 92% of all listed buildings in the UK and includes many private dwellings.
Age is the primary variable used to judge listed status but buildings under grade I and grade II* listed status do also need to be considered nationally or specially important in some way.
Every property constructed prior to 1700 is listed by default and the vast majority of those constructed between 1700 and 1840 are listed also. The oldest, largest of these, such as cathedrals, will nearly always be grade I listed.
Modern buildings built post-WWII were rarely listed but more are now being granted listed status, such as the Trellick Tower built in 1972, a grade II* listed apartment block designed in the brutalist architectural style. Just 15% of listed buildings were built before 1600, 19% in the 17th century, 31% in the 18th, 32% in the 19th and only 0.2% after that, though this will increase.
Checking buildings for listed status or areas for listed buildings is very simple. For buildings in England, simply head to Historic England and use the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) search tool. For buildings in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, use the equivalent tool. You can also find useful information on a building’s listed status including when it was listed, why and under conditions.
If your building is listed, or you’re interested in purchasing one, then it’s very important to be aware of the restriction placed upon it. Restrictions apply to the ‘fabric of the building’, the roof, walls and windows, but also to interior features like fireplaces. You are essentially limited to superficial decorative and aesthetic changes that do not affect the character or appearance in such a way that is not continuous with the building’s historic nature.
Any modifications beyond this will require Listed Building Consent. This must be made to the local planning authority. It is a criminal offence to not gain listed consent where it is legally required.
Prior to purchasing a listed building, it is essential you seek the assistance of a chartered surveyor. They can perform a full Building Survey that assesses and analyses the condition of the building. They will also help explain what you can and can’t do to the building.
If you’re seeking Listed Building Consent then a chartered surveyor can assist here too. They are able to assist with the application, giving you the best chance of securing consent.