Our Guide To Listed Buildings

A listed building is ‘a building of special architectural or historic interest’. The listed status can cover a whole building, the interior, any attached structures, or later extensions. It is often the age and uniqueness of the building that determines its listed status.

Why are buildings listed?

Buildings are listed to ensure that their “special interest” is passed down to future generations in good condition. The long-term interests of a historic building are best served by keeping it in use, and listing protects buildings while allowing appropriate positive change to occur.

The most likely reason why a building is listed will be due to its age. All buildings built pre-1700 which remain in their original condition are listed, as well as most buildings between 1700-1850. Buildings built between 1840 and 1945 and that are of definite quality and character, including those by renowned architects, will also be considered for listing status. There is also a selection method for buildings after 1945, and this could be because of their technological advances, notable features or maybe the work of a particular architect. Buildings less than 30 years old are normally only listed if they are both ‘of outstanding quality and under threat’ as they haven’t yet stood the test of time

How do I find out if a building has a listed status?

The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is the only official, up to date, register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England.

What are the categories for Listed Buildings?

Grade 1 – Buildings of exceptional interest; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade 1

Grade II* – Buildings are particularly important, being of more than special interest; 5.5%  of listed buildings

Grade II – Buildings of special architectural or historic interest; 92% of listed buildings. You will need special permission to make any changes.

What  to consider when purchasing a listed property?

There will be restrictions over what you are allowed to do to a building – you still may be able to change a building but you must apply for consent. Within planning guidance, listed buildings can be changed, extended, and even demolished but consent must be gained first. The process for applying for consent is free and available online.

In addition, you need to consider the fact that repairs will most likely cost more, you may have to hire specialists to complete the work. Some buildings may have unique features that require special trades skills to work on them, so hiring specialist tradesmen can be more expensive.

However, you may also be able to apply for a grant for repairs and any maintenance works.

Another item to consider if you are purchasing a listed building is that you may require specialist home insurance. Insurance may need to cover a rebuild and not just market value, due to its listed status, specialist building materials may be required which are more expensive.

Can any works be done to a listed building without consent?

Listed buildings are to be enjoyed and used, like any other building. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance. The local authority uses listed building consent to make decisions that balance the site’s historic significance against other issues, such as its function, condition or viability.

Consent must be obtained in order to make any changes to the building which may affect its special interest. If you maintain the property using like-for-like materials and using specialist trades to complete the work to the specialist standard required then you may not need to get consent. This means work that you complete must be the same in respect of replacement material, colour, texture and detail.

Unless items are specifically excluded from the list description the listing will cover the whole building including the interior.

It is a criminal offense to carry out and complete work which needs listed building consent.

What alterations need consent?

Listed Building Consent is required for any alteration which materially affects the ‘special interest’ of a listed building. For example, consent would normally be needed for any of the following alterations:


  • Adding an extension or rebuilding walls in different materials.
  • Changing the roof pitch or roof covering materials.
  • Inserting roof lights, removing, altering or adding dormer windows, adding solar panels or other microgeneration equipment.
  • Altering or removing chimney stacks and pots.
  • Covering existing wall surfaces e.g. with render, cladding or paint.
  • Changing the size of door, window or other openings.
  • Altering window frames or doors, replacement with different types, including replacement of single glazing with double-glazing.
  • Removing historic features e.g. door cases, chimney breasts.
  • Forming new openings for any reason, including boiler flues.
  • Changing the material of any rainwater goods.
  • Adding any feature including porches, signs, satellite dishes,
  • security alarm boxes, CCTV cameras or external floodlights.
  • Inserting cavity wall insulation.
  • Works to boundary walls.
  • Works to buildings in the grounds that were present in 1948 and at the time of listing.



  • Altering the plan by removing or adding walls or forming new openings.
  • Taking out or altering original features including staircases, fireplaces, decorative plasterwork, panelling, shutters, doors, architraves and skirting boards.
  • Installing new ceilings, partitions, doors and secondary glazing.
  • Filling in cellars, or digging out cellars to increase usable floor space.
  • Removing or replacing floors or floor finishes.
  • The obliteration of wall paintings, decorative tiles and mosaics.
  • Installing new ducting, waste pipes and openings associated with new bathrooms.
  • Inserting damp proof courses or tanking systems.

Some works that require Listed Building Consent may also require Planning Permission or Building Regulations approval. You should check with the council before you apply for consent.

Listed Building Maintenance

If you own a listed building you should keep it in reasonable repair. The most important element of caring for historic buildings is maintenance, which if undertaken regularly can avoid the need for repair or restoration work altogether, saving you money and time, and sustaining the historic fabric of the building into the future.

Damp problems, in particular, can often be remedied quickly and without using expensive and invasive damp proofing methods. Damp is usually the result of water getting into a building, for example through a leaking or blocked gutter. If the water source is removed and the building left to dry out naturally, the problem will normally be resolved. The inspection of a large house or similar sized building may well be within the capability of the average owner but if historic buildings are of particular importance or complexity, it may be necessary to employ experts from different specialisms to design appropriate repairs.

Who decides?

The Government decides which buildings are included on the statutory lists, based on recommendations by English Heritage. Anyone can suggest buildings to English Heritage, using a simple form available on their website, but a building will only be included on the list if it is judged to be of special interest after being visited and assessed by an English Heritage inspector. If a historic building that may be worthy of listing is under threat, the local authority can serve a ‘building preservation notice’ on the owner and occupier. This ‘lists’ and protects a building for six months pending a decision by the Government as to whether it should be added to the statutory list.

It is a criminal offence to carry out work to a listed building, other than minor like-for-like repairs, without first obtaining Listed Building Consent, and it could lead upon conviction to a period of imprisonment and a very heavy fine.


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