How listed buildings are selected Commercial Archaeology

How Listed Building Consent works

Material considerations in the planning process

The system of listing allows planning authorities to protect listed buildings through the requirement for Listed Building Consent (LBC) for any works which may impact on the significance of the building and/or their settings. 

See also: How listed buildings are selected »

Historic England outline the requirements of LBC as follows:

“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 even demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority.”

As an example of this, owners of listed buildings have constraints imposed upon them from listed status concerning what they can and cannot do to their building in terms of changing or modernising it. This might apply to the kind of windows they can use or to the style and massing of a proposed extension.

Special architectural and historic interest

The criteria for listing are the special architectural and historic interest of a building and whilst many buildings might be classed as architecturally or historically interesting, for them to qualify for listing the key factor is special interest.

The greater the antiquity of a building the more likely it is to be listed. 

Therefore, all buildings built before 1700 which survive predominantly in their original form are listed, as are most buildings dating to between 1700 and 1840.  However, there are examples of buildings of more modern date being listed too, though particularly careful selection is used for buildings from the period after 1945.

Buildings are listed at three different grades which reflect their special architectural and historic interest:

  • Grade I status is reserved for buildings of exceptional interest, for example Buckingham Palace or St. Pancras Station in London.
  • Grade II* applies to buildings of particular importance with more than special interest, for example Cuttle Watermill and Millhouse in Oxfordshire of late 17th or early 18th century date.
  • Grade II signifies buildings of special interest where every effort should be made to preserve them, for example a row of early 19th century weavers’ cottages built in the local vernacular style in old industrial towns of the North, very often located within Conservation Areas.

When making a decision about listing a building the Secretary of State assesses whether a building is of:

  • Special architectural interest meaning that it must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration of craftsmanship for example was the building technologically innovative when it was designed or does it illustrate aspects of social or economic history?
  • Special historic interest meaning that it must reflect important elements of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history or have a close association with significant historic individuals.

State of repair is not relevant

Other considerations will include a building’s age and rarity or its aesthetic merits as well as it national, regional or local interest. The state of repair of a building is not relevant when the Secretary of State decides whether a building fulfils the criteria of special interest.
Importantly, it should be remembered that just because a building is not listed does not mean that it will not be considered of architectural or historic interest. Locally listed buildings and/or buildings entered onto the Historic Environment Record (HER) are material considerations in the planning process.

Therefore, when works are planned which can impact upon a listed building or upon an unlisted but historically important building there will most likely be a requirement for heritage and archaeological investigation and research as part of the planning process. This might be in the form of a heritage statement, a heritage impact assessment and some level of on-site building survey and recording.

The more highly graded or the more important the building the more intensive the planning requirements are likely to be.

An article on Methods of Assessing and Recording Historic Buildings will follow shortly.

Further information

How listed buildings are selected »

Further assistance

Should you be planning works to a listed building and want more advice contact Helen at Commercial Archaeology which specialises in historic buildings.