If you are a property developer or you are looking to purchase a new home, you may wonder what a listed building is. Listed buildings in the United Kingdom are now very common-place, with around half a million buildings now on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. If a building is placed on the list, it cannot be demolished, extended or altered without the owner first receiving permission from their local planning authority. This can apply to a number of undertakings, from building an extension, to replacing the windows in a property.
When an application for any such action is made on a listed building, the local planning authority will usually contact the relevant central government agency in the area. This is especially true if the intended changes apply to a more notable or 'high profile' listed building. In some instances, buildings currently used for worship can receive exemption from secular listed building control - but this is usually only in cases where a religious organisation operates within its own permissions procedure of an equivalent nature.
Listed buildings can fall into a number of sub-categories - the three main types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales are; Grade I - for buildings of exceptional interest, Grade II* - for particularly important buildings of more than special interest and Grade II - for buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. The 'rules' of each grade differ somewhat, so it's vitally important to check the grade of a house or building before you purchase it.
A number of criteria are used when assessing the grade of a building. The age and rarity of a structure are considered - generally speaking, the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. As an example - all buildings erected prior to 1700 are automatically listed whereas buildings that are less than 30 years old rarely make the list, unless they are of exceptional quality and/or under threat. Aesthetic merits are also taking into consideration, however, buildings that have little or no visual appeal can still be listed if they are deemed to represent a period of time or aspect of social life that needs to be protected.
When determining the buildings that should be listed, selectivity is also very important. In cases where a large number of similar buildings are apparent, the policy is to list only those that are deemed to be the 'most representative' or 'significant examples'. National interest is also a key factor - if a building is viewed as being nationally important for any reason, it can be listed, even if it represents a localised area of industry. A building can be listed regardless of its state of repair, as this is not deemed as a relevant factor.