What is a listed building and what are the planning regulations involved in maintaining and altering such buildings?

Rothamsted Manor in Harpenden is Grade I listed, meaning it is "a building of exceptional interest".

Rothamsted Manor in Harpenden is Grade I listed, meaning it is "a building of exceptional interest". Picture: John Mathews - Credit: Archant

Own a listed building? Be mindful of the planning challenges, says Andrew Boothby of Aitchison Raffety

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety - Credit: Archant

There are around 500,000 listed buildings in England, more than 800 of which are located in the St Albans District.

Owning or living in a listed building is a big commitment and comes with a number of obligations and responsibilities. Maintaining or altering a listed property can be a challenging and complex process; however it can also be very rewarding.

St Albans Clock Tower is Grade I listed. Picture: Alan Davies

St Albans Clock Tower is Grade I listed. Picture: Alan Davies - Credit: Alan Davies

A listed building is a building or structure that is considered to be of ‘special architectural or historic interest’. While many buildings are interesting architecturally or historically, in order to be listed a building must have ‘special’ interest. The Secretary of State uses the following general criteria when deciding whether a building is of special interest:

Architectural Interest

A building of special architectural interest must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship. This can include nationally important examples of particular building types or techniques, such as timber frame or cob.

Historical Interest

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A building of historic interest must demonstrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural, or military history, or have a historic association with a nationally important figure.

Once a building or structure is deemed to be of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ it is entered onto a statutory list; hence the name listed building. The list entry provides a description of the building and a summary of its history and features.

Listed buildings are graded according to their relative importance:

• Grade I – Building of exceptional interest, for example The Clock Tower in St Albans and Rothamsted Manor House in Harpenden.

• Grade II* - Particularly important buildings of more than special interest, for example the Old Town Hall in St Albans, Harpenden Hall and the Harpenden Moat House.

• Grade II - Buildings of special interest that warrant every effort being made to preserve them.

In addition, any structure falling within the curtilage of a listed building which pre-dates July 1 1948 and any object or structure attached to a listed building may be considered listed.

If you want to alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority.

It is important to bear in mind that the listing covers the entire building, internal and external, and therefore works which would not normally require planning permission, such as internal alterations, may require listed building consent. In all situations, before undertaking any works to or within the curtilage of a listed building you should check with the local planning authority whether listed building consent is required.

As a general guide, the following works are very likely to require listed building consent, however it should be noted that this is not a definitive list and advice should always be sought from the local planning authority first:

• Demolition of the whole or part of the building, or anything within the curtilage built before 1948

• The removal of any internal walls or stud partitions, or provision of the same

• The removal of doors, windows, chimney stacks or chimney breasts, staircases, porches and balconies. Listed building consent will be required to replace windows and doors even if they are to be of the exact same design, material and finish

• Any extensions or new additions to the building of any kind. Some extensions may also need planning permission depending on their size and location

• Changing the roof covering, for example from natural slate to imitation slate. Even if the same roof material is to be used consent may be required if there are changes to roof timbers or structure of the roof

• Exterior painting

• Adding objects to the exterior such as shutters, signs, advertisements, meter boxes, satellite antennae, external lighting, solar panels, etc.

• The removal or alteration of panelling, fireplaces or decorative plasterwork

• Putting up or replacing a fence or gates within the curtilage of a listed building

As the owner of a listed building you are legally required to obtain the necessary consent for any alterations, extensions or changes to the building and associated structures within the curtilage. This includes unauthorised works carried out by previous owners.

It is a criminal offence to not seek consent when it is required. The current penalty on conviction in a Magistrates Court is a maximum of two years imprisonment and or an unlimited fine. This applies to the owner, the builder and the architect or surveyor involved.

If any unauthorised works are found the local planning authority may also serve an enforcement notice requiring the building to be reinstated to its former condition. It is therefore vital that you check with local planning authority before undertaking any works. In many cases it is also wise to seek the professional advice of a planning consultant or heritage expert to assist with the process.

It should also be noted that many properties in St Albans District are ‘locally listed’. These are buildings which the Local Planning Authority considers make a positive contribution to the character of the area. Whilst local listing provides no additional planning controls, the fact that a building or site is on a local list means that its conservation as a heritage asset is a materials consideration when determining the outcome of a planning application. In this regard, St Albans City & District Council has a specific policy relating to works involving ‘locally listed’ buildings.

Before embarking upon a project involving a listed building, Aitchison Raffety would be keen to provide initial informal advice so please do not hesitate to contact Andrew Boothby on 01442 874087 or via email at andrew.boothby@argroup.co.uk