From modern to ancient, our architecture tells a story. Building listing helps to maintain that story by preserving buildings or features that are considered to be of historic or architectural interest. The older and more rare a building is, the more likely it is to have restrictions in place.
As a general rule, if a building was built prior to 1700 and still resembles its original condition, it will be listed. Likewise, most properties built between 1700 and 1850. Buildings built over the next century can be listed if they are thought to be of special significance, while anything built over the past fifty years or so is not yet considered worth preserving. Listing buildings is led by Historic England, who have their own programme for recommending listing buildings. However, anyone can nominate a building for listing if they think that it is of historic or architectural significance. The final decision over whether or not a building is listed is made by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The full list of listed buildings can be found on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE).
Gradings of Listed Buildings
It is estimated that there are around 500,000 listed buildings on the NHLE. These listings come in three categories:
- Grade 1 listing applies to those of significant interest. Only 2.5% of all listed building are categorised as Grade 1.
- Grade 2* applies to buildings that are of special interest, but which aren’t as special as Grade 1. Nearly 6% of listed buildings are Grade 2*.
- Most listed buildings are Grade 2. These are of special interest because they showcase architecture or history, and as such they need to be sympathetically altered or updated.
Making Changes to Listed Buildings
Just because a building is listed, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed, lived in, altered, extended or even knocked down. What it does mean is that you must get special permission from your local authority before you do any work.
If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you may need to apply for Listed Building Consent. Before you apply, check with your local authority Conservation Officer whether you need consent for what you are planning to do. You could also ask what is likely to be granted, so that you can tailor your plans to suit the local authority’s requirement. This will mean that you are more likely to get consent the first time around, saving you time and money. Once you have made your application, the local authority will use listed building consent guidelines to make a decision about whether to grant you permission based on the property’s historical significance versus its function, condition or viability. A professional architect or reliable local builder will be able to help you to make an application for changes that are sympathetic to the existing building, and which are more likely to be accepted by the local authority.