Some prospective buyers can be put off properties that are listed fearing that they will not be able to make any improvements to their new home. This is a common misconception. True, should you want to make significant alterations to a listed house you are required to obtain Listed Building Consent first but it is not the default position of planning authorities to refuse all applications and that the building must be wrapped up in cotton wool for ever more and become a museum piece. One way of looking at it is that the listing status of a home is an endorsement of its historic character and special features.
English Heritage, who act as an advisory body to the Government on the country’s unique historic places, suggest that listing is not a preservation order preventing change but simply a list of buildings identified as being of special historic or architectural interest that require consent before making changes that might affect its important status. A Listed building may be altered, added to or even demolished within planning guidelines and indeed, Rural View have sold countless listed homes that have been substantially extended or refurbished.
Whether consent is given depends on a number of factors including the listing grade of the building, what is being proposed, whether it is in a conservation area and the type of materials to be used. The interpretation of what works might impact on the special quality of a property can be subjective and down to the judgement of the local planning department’s conservation officer. Some conservation officers can have a reputation for being quite pedantic, even obstructive but by and large they are helpful and supportive of schemes that are sympathetic to the unique qualities of the property and neighbourhood. My advice is that wherever possible, work with rather than against them.
All buildings built before 1700 that are anything like in their original condition are listed as a matter of course and most built before 1840. There are approximately 376,000 Listed buildings in England of which 92% are classified Grade II as being of national importance, whilst Grade II* are regarded as being of particular importance (5.5%) and Grade I exceptional importance (2.5%). You can check if a property is listed on English Heritage’s website www.english-heritage.org.uk .
The listing status includes not only the core building (both internally and externally) but also any additions to it and buildings on the land attached to it, i.e. within its curtilage. It is important to bear in mind that it is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised work to a listed property. An owner of a listed property can be obliged to rectify any breeches made after it was first listed even if the work was carried out by a previous owner some years ago. Therefore if buying a listed building make sure that your solicitor obtains all documentation relating to previous consents.
The sort of work that one would normally require consent for would be for things like adding extensions, removing internal walls, replacing doors or windows, painting over brickwork or altering chimneys. Updating or replacing existing modern fittings such as kitchen and bathrooms or routine maintenance does not usually require consent. If you are not sure whether or not you need Listed Building Consent to carry our certain tasks, consult with the local conservation officer first and they will tell you if you need to submit an application.
Most owners of listed homes tend to be the type of people who appreciate and value the special charm and character of a period property or one of architectural interest. They can rightly claim to be custodians of the country’s heritage.