A Quick Guide to Listed Houses in England and Wales
If you are lucky enough to own a listed building, you are the custodian of a unique and beautiful property. And although this comes with responsibilities, most listed property owners would probably agree that it is an honour to own such a building and take pride in it.
What is a Listed Building?
In the UK, it is a building with “special architectural and/or historic interest” that appears on a statutory list administered by Historic England. According to Historic England, “listing marks and celebrates a building's special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations”. In most cases, the classification protects the interior as well as the exterior. This may also include any structures attached to the building, outbuildings, garden walls and even modern extensions.
What is the Difference between Grade I and Grade II Listed Buildings?
According to Historic England, 92% of all listed buildings are GRADE II which are buildings of special interest warranting every effort to preserve them. A further 5.5% are GRADE II*, which is for buildings that are particularly important. The other 2.5% are GRADE I, which are of exceptional interest.
Listed Building Consent
If you are considering buying a listed property with a view to making changes, it’ll be a good idea to speak to the local conservation officer before you buy. Any extensions or alterations that will alter the appearance of the listed house will need the necessary consent from your local conservation officer. He or she will also be able to guide you through the process of applying for consent.
Thinking about Buying a Listed House?
Keep the following in mind:
Running costs and repairs will be more expensive as you may have to use tradespeople with special skills and specific materials to carry out repairs.
You will need specialist insurance.
You will need permission from your local authority for any changes you would like to make.
You will have to be very patient and be prepared for some bureaucracy.
Design for Listed Buildings
Designing for these precious buildings should be approached from a different perspective. Conservation of the building is not about preventing change but managing those changes in such a way that the heritage values of the building are always respected.
The question should always be what I can do for the building and not only what I can do inside the building.
Should I buy a Listed Building?
Buying a listed building comes with added responsibilities and there will certainly be extra boxes to tick when you take on a listed building, but in return you will get to own a little bit of the country’s history. Listed buildings are also likely to retain their value more than any other type of property. Here are my tips before you buy:
Do your research thoroughly so that you’re aware of exactly what it is you’re buying.
Read the description of the building on the National Heritage List. You’ll be able to find the specific details on why the house is listed and it will give you an indication of which changes you might be able to make.
Get a full buildings survey done by a surveyor who specialises in listed buildings.
Be aware that the information you need in support of an application for building consent is a lot more detailed than you would need for a planning application.
If you are planning any changes, get to know your local conservation officer.
If there are any problems relating to damp, get advice from a surveyor with expertise in dealing with damp issues in old buildings so that you can find out what is causing the damp. The walls of older buildings were meant to breathe, and they cannot deal with modern plastic paints.
Very importantly, where the previous owners have had any work done to the property, you’ll have to check that it has been done with the necessary consent. If not, you may become liable for correcting any mistakes when you buy the property.
I think it’s important to think about the advice of William Morris:
“These buildings do not belong to us only…we are only the trustees for those who come after us”.