Listed buildings

Many people throughout their lives will likely have come across a listed building whether it be through a visit to one of England’s many historically significant sites or perhaps because they happen to live in one. But as part of the property transaction we should also be thinking of the implications they may have for the owner.

What constitutes a listed building?

Before looking at the potential implications of listed buildings it should first be understood what constitutes a listed building. This is ultimately decided by the Secretary of State under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with the list compiled under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Ares) Act 19901. The decision is based primarily on whether or not the building in question is deemed to be of special architectural or historic interest, defined as follows:

“Architectural Interest. To be of special architectural interest a building must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship; special interest may also apply to nationally important examples of particular building types and techniques (e.g. buildings displaying technological innovation or virtuosity) and significant plan forms;

Historic Interest. To be of special historic interest a building must illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history and/or have close historical associations with nationally important people. There should normally be some quality of interest in the physical fabric of the building itself to justify the statutory protection afforded by listing.”2

As part of this, buildings on the list are graded in an effort to reflect their relative architectural and historic interest, and include1:

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest
  • Grade II buildings are of special interest

Of these only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I, 5.5% are Grade II* and the remaining 92% are Grade II. Of all listed buildings Grade II is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner1. The listing itself covers the building as a whole and includes the interior unless stated otherwise in the description of the listing. This can also cover attached structures and fixtures, extensions or additions and buildings on land within the curtilage for those that are pre 19483.

How can a building become listed?

As a general rule of thumb the older the building is the more likely it is to be listed, subject to the Principles of Selection for Listed Buildings, and has to be over 30 years old to be considered. According to Historic England who maintains the National Heritage List for England, buildings that survive in a resemblance of the original condition that are built before 1700 are listed. This is also the case for the vast majority of buildings built between 1700 and 1840, with more careful selection needed for those constructed after 19451.

In terms of becoming listed, there are two ways in which this can occur. The first is via nomination and the second is through Historic England’s own strategic programme of listing priorities. For both of these routes evidence must be submitted to show that the property meets the Principles of Selection for Listed Buildings. Based on this Historic England will make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who makes the final decision1,2.

It is also possible to remove a property from the list if evidence can be presented to show that the property in question no longer meets the criteria for which it was listed.

Number of listed buildings in the county

In terms of the number of listed buildings across the country on the National Heritage List for England, the exact number is not known as a single listing can include multiple units such as a row of terrace houses. It has been estimated by Historic England that there are approximately 500,000 listed buildings on the list. The age of these buildings range from pre 1600 to post 1945 with 15% dated pre 1600, 19% 17th century, 31% 18th century, 32% 19th century, 3% 1900-1944 and 0.2% dated post 19451.

The potential implications for the property owner

The main constraints for owners of a listed property fall with what changes can be made. While listing doesn’t prevent you from making changes to the property it can restrict what can be done as in order to make changes listed building consent must first be obtained from the local planning authority3. It is recommended that the Conservation Officer at the local authority be contacted prior to applying for listed building consent as they will be able to give advice on what will need to be done for the planned work to be acceptable. It is important that listed building consent be obtained before work is carried out as unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence. As such it is recommended that you ensure all work carried out on the property has been done with appropriate planning permission as the current owner would be liable to correct any alterations or additions. This responsibility would pass to new owners of the property and there is no time limit on enforcement to undertake these repairs4.

Prior to purchasing an older property Historic England recommends that further research be conducted including but not limited to5:

  • Consulting the local authority to ascertain if the property is listed, in a conservation area and if there are any associated protected trees
  • Commission a full structural survey by a professional familiar with historic buildings
  • Investigate insurance as standard home insurance policies might not be adequate

It is important that these further steps be highlighted to potential purchasers as will help them to make an informed decision when buying a listed building.


  1. Historic England (2016). Listed Buildings. UK,, accessed 27th June 2016.
  1. Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2010). Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings. UK,, accessed 27th June 2016.
  1. Historic England (2016). Living in a Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II Listed Building. UK,, accessed 28th June 2016.
  1. The Listed Property Owners Club (2016). Questions and Answers. UK,, accessed 27th June 2016.
  1. Historic England (2016). Thinking of Buying an Older Building? UK,, accessed 28th June 2016.

This article was submitted to be published by Groundsure as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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