Listed Buildings – Laws and Regulations: What, Why and How?

Working within an operation that connects hundreds of surveyors from around the country offers a unique perspective on the state and diversity of property in the UK. We see every day that historic buildings are a precious and fine asset, strong reminders of the work and lives of previous generations. They give us a powerful taste of heritage the equal of which is extremely rare the world over.

English Heritage preserves and protects the historic buildings of the UK. They continue to monitor and perpetuate the process and buildings are still being listed today.

This article, and those to follow in future issues, will give an insight into the process of ‘listing’ which was designed by English Heritage. We will elaborate upon why buildings are listed, the implications of this, the planning regulations and intrinsic legal aspect, and the grants available.

Articles in the series:

  • What, why and how?
  • Forming the list
  • Me and my listing
  • Financial help, conservation areas and legal precedent

Article 1: What, why and how?

What is a listed building?

A building, structure or special monument of particular architectural or historic interest which is included in a schedule compiled by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Why would a building be listed?

A building is listed to ensure that its architectural and historical significance is taken into account before any alterations, be they inside or out, are agreed. This preserves it for use, in whatever capacity, by future generations. The idea is not to fossilise a building or to wrap it in cotton wool so that it stands, useless, in perpetuity.  The building’s long-term interests, and those of the surrounding area, are usually best served by putting it to the best use possible. In many cases, this is not necessarily its original use.

How are the buildings chosen?

Generally speaking, the older a building is the more likely it is to be listed. Virtually all buildings built before 1700 which remain in a condition similar to the original are listed, as are the majority built between 1700 and 1840. After this, the criteria become much tighter as time passes, so that buildings built post 1945 must be extremely important, architecturally significant or historically valuable to be listed.

Specifically, buildings become listed because of their age, rarity, architectural worth and/or construction technique. Occasionally, a building might be chosen for its relation to a particularly famous person, or for the part it played in an historic event. Listing might also occur to protect an interesting group of buildings, for example a model village or a square.

This article is one of a series on ‘Listed Buildings’ produced by Look out for the next article in October’s Newsletter.


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