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Insights // 24 May 2023

Listed Buildings Consent: Common Myths & Misunderstandings

Karen Jones and Emily Boorman, in our Planning & Environmental Law team, dispel certain myths and misunderstandings around listed buildings.

There are three types of Listed Buildings:

  • Grade I buildings (2.5% of all listed buildings)
  • Grade II* (5.8% of listed buildings)
  • Grade II (91.7% of listed buildings)

Grade II buildings are the most common. Grade I buildings are the least common, and only buildings of exceptional interest are Grade I.

Examples of Grade I listed buildings include:

  • Blenheim Palace,
  • Reading Abbey,
  • Windsor Castle,
  • Henley Bridge,
  • Maidenhead Bridge.

Examples of Grade II* listed buildings include Wokingham Town Hall, Newbury Bridge, and Henley Town Hall.

An example of a Grade II listed building is the Queen Victoria Jubilee Statue outside of our Reading offices at One Friar Street.

What is Included?

The National Heritage List for England maintains a register of all nationally protected buildings and sites in England. As demonstrated by the examples above, a Listed Building does not have to be a ‘building’; other structures have also been granted Listed Building status. A notable example also includes the Abbey Road zebra crossing, made famous by the Beatles, which was granted Grade II Listed Building status in 2010.

A common misconception is that the Listed Building status only applies to the list description. List entries are often accompanied by a description, or details, which only reference specific parts of the building. However, the listed status does not only apply to the features referenced in the description.

Listed status applies to the whole of any principal building/s that is listed. This includes the internal and external features of the building. In addition, the listed status applies to objects, structures and buildings affixed to or “within the curtilage” of the principal building. It is a common misconception that modern parts or later additions to buildings are not restricted by the listed building status but in fact the listed building protections apply to the whole of the building, not just the parts of architectural or historic significance.

Whether or not a structure is ‘within the curtilage’ of the listed building always depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. Relevant factors include the physical layout of the buildings, and the ownership of the buildings in question. Any ambiguity as to whether something is included in a listing should be clarified with the Local Authority before any works begin.

The Protections

Listed Building Consent is required for works undertaken to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. This includes demolition works, alterations or extension. Applications for Listed Building Consent are made to the local planning authority.

Often, listed buildings do not have the benefit of permitted development rights. Permitted development rights can be removed or restricted in a number of ways, notably by planning permission conditions, or by Article 4 directions made by the local authority. This might be specific to the site, or a whole area. In any event where permitted development rights are available there will still be a need for listed building consent for any alterations that may affect the historic or architectural interest.

Therefore, owners of listed buildings will often need to apply for planning permission and listed building consent for works even if those works are internal.

It is a criminal offence to undertake works to a listed building which affect its character without listed building consent. The local authority may also serve Listed Building enforcement notices, which require the owner to remedy the works or attempt to alleviate the effects of the unauthorised works.

Only the person who carried out the unauthorised works can be criminally prosecuted; you cannot inherit the criminal liability by buying a listed building which has been unlawfully altered.

However, no such limitations apply to the service of a listed building enforcement notice which may be served on the current owner of the listed building. The local authority can serve enforcement notices on the current owner requiring remedial works to be carried out even if they were not the person who originally altered the building.

A prospective purchaser can therefore inherit the responsibility to remedy the unauthorised works, even if you did not alter the building.

It is a common misconception that all listed buildings should be frozen in time. It is very possible to alter a listed building, provided the alterations are sensitive and respect the listed status. Not all alterations will affect the special nature of the building. Any alterations will need careful consideration and attention.

Minor maintenance works and repairs may not constitute a development and might not affect the listed building’s character. Therefore, some minor maintenance and repair works will not need Listed Building Consent. It is always advisable to check the position with the local planning authority and to take steps to protect the position possibly by making an application for a certificate of lawfulness of proposed works to a listed building, a less vigorous procedure to listed building consent which will give the protection required if granted.  However, Historic England notes that repairs using like-for-like materials may still require consent, as the removed materials may be relevant to the special interest in the building. Historic England recommends checking first with your local authority Conservation Officer whether or not Listed Building Consent will be needed.

Challenging Decisions

If your planning application or listed building consent has been refused, most applicants will have the right to appeal. There are strict time limits for submitting an appeal.

The decision of an inspector on appeal may also be subject to judicial review. The grounds for judicial review are procedural in nature, for example following the incorrect procedure.

How We Can Help

Our Planning & Environmental Law team is ranked in the top 15 Planning Law firms in the UK in Planning magazine’s 2022 Planning Law Survey, and we are recognised as a top tier firm in the UK’s leading guides to law firms, Chambers UK and The Legal 500. We can assist you with:

  • Applications for Listed Building Consent, including a review of your chances of success
  • Appealing a decision
  • Judicial Review of a decision
  • General Legal Advice on your circumstances

If you intend to appeal a decision or apply for judicial review, it is essential that you meet the strict deadlines for doing so. If you intend to enquire with us about judicial review or appeals, please do so before or immediately after receiving the decision.

For further information or legal advice, please contact or call 0118 951 6800.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Karen Jones

Karen Jones

Partner, Planning & Environmental Law

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Emily Boorman

Emily Boorman

Trainee Solicitor

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