Restoring a listed building comes with its own unique challenges, but the results can be breathtaking while still retaining the property’s unique characteristics.
Listed building restoration can be a challenging business, particularly if you’re not familiar with the restrictions and processes involved. Mistakes can be expensive and time-consuming. There are quite a few hoops to jump through, but doing your homework can make the entire process run more smoothly.
What is a listed building?
A listed building is considered of special architectural or historic interest, to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting. English Heritage keeps and maintains a list of these properties, and they fall into three categories:
- Grade I for buildings of the highest significance
- Grade II* and
- Grade II
Most listed building owners are likely to live in a Grade II building as these make up 92% of all listed buildings.
Do I need permission to make changes to my listed building?
If you’re asking this question, the answer is probably yes.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what changes will require permission. They can vary between local authorities and even by the current Conservation Officer. Your local Conservation Officer should be able to advise you and share their knowledge of similar local properties and the work they have had done. They may also be able to advise on the history of your property and any previous work that’s been done.
Listed building regulations don’t just apply to the outside of your property either. Doors, decorative stonework, fireplaces, stonework and chimney flues can all be subject to planning approval. You may also find that some elements of your garden, such as trees, gates and walls, are also included. If in doubt, it’s best to speak to your Conservation Officer. English Heritage has published a document outlining the most common enquiries about listed building restoration and maintenance.
Upon receiving your application, your local council will weigh the heritage, special features, regional setting, local regard and many other factors before making their decision. For these reasons, every application is different, unique and measured on its own merits.
When buying a listed building, DO:
- Check the status of existing building work
If the previous owners have made significant changes to your listed building, it’s important to ensure that these were done with the correct permissions. Once the property is yours, so is the responsibility for any unapproved works. Some homeowners will attempt to do work without permission in the hopes that it’ll either go unnoticed or that permissions will be granted retrospectively. This can be a very expensive gamble!
- Insure your home accordingly
Make sure that the buildings insurance that you choose caters to listed buildings. If a disaster results in damage to your property, it should be restored in accordance with the building’s heritage. This might not be covered by standard insurance policies and could leave you significantly out of pocket.
- Look after your paperwork
If you’re new to listed building restoration, you’ll soon learn the importance of the paper trail. Doing work on your property can be a bit heavy on the bureaucracy, and it’s important to keep hold of the paperwork after the work is complete.
When buying a listed building, DON’T:
- Mix the old and the new
If your building requires repair, this must be done in the original character of the property. Mixing new and old building methods can damage the original fixtures and be costly to restore. Your property will most likely be built with Lime Mortar and using cement in older buildings can cause irreparable damage.
- Rush into any changes
It can be tempting to get work done as swiftly as possible, to minimise any disruption to everyone living or working in the property. But getting approval can be a lengthy process. For peace of mind, it’s possible to arrange a pre-application meeting with your Conservation Officer to hopefully help the process run smoothly.
If you’re applying for relatively small works, then local authorities have a target of 8 weeks to make a decision. This target has been greatly affected in many areas by the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in these eight weeks is a 21-day consultation that includes your neighbours and any other interested parties.