What is a Listed building?

What is a listed building and why specialist insurance
What is a listed building?

Listed Buildings and the Law

Listed Buildings form an important part of our nation’s heritage. You don’t necessarily need to be interested in architecture to realise that these buildings provide us with a window to another time and are well worth studying and preserving for future generations to enjoy.

In order to preserve and protect our national heritage the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) maintains a register of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest. Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a statutory duty to keep this list which identifies buildings of special interest and also gives Local Authorities powers to protect them alongside making their owners responsible for their maintenance. Owners may face prosecution for failure to maintain a listed building or if they carry out unauthorised alterations.
Surveys took place nationwide by professionals in order to compile this list. Where some buildings were omitted, they may be added on at a later date by either ‘spot’ listing or by a Building Preservation Notice, which causes the building to be listed for a period of six months. During that time the DCMS must consider whether it is to become a permanent listing.

To date there are over 500,000 listed buildings in the UK. Listed buildings do not necessarily have to be stately or buildings with a significant historical background. Any man-made structure can be considered for listing from churches or schools, bridges or locks and include smaller structures such as tombstones and telephone boxes.

The DCMS has an approved set of criteria which it uses to judge whether a building warrants a listed status. Advisors are used who are professionals from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, otherwise known as English Heritage.

What is a listed building and types of Buildings listed

The following types of building are listed:-

  • All buildings built pre 1700 that have stood the test of time and in anything like their original condition.
  • Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840.
  • Only buildings of certain character and quality built between 1840 and 1914 are selectively listed providing they show character and quality, technological advances or designs from notable architects.
  • Some buildings of high quality and/or historic importance built between 1914 and 1939.

The qualities that are looked at when a building is being chosen to be listed include the special value of the building (for example schools, theatres, oast houses), technical innovation (for example early pre-fab constructions) and the association of a building with a well-known character or an event.
Listed buildings are classified in one of three grades to denote their importance. However, this does not mean that one grade is more important or better than another.

In Britain and wales there are three listing categories:

  • Grade I- listed buildings are of exceptional importance, often nationally or even internationally. Only 2.5% of listed buildings fall into this category. Examples of these are the Lloyd’s of London building, Cifton Suspension Bridge and Buckingham Palace
  • Grade II* -listed buildings are of outstanding interest, usually regionally. 5.5% of listed buildings fall into this category and examples are Battersea Power Station and Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge as well as many private dwelling houses.
  • Grade II -listed buildings are both important nationally and of special interest. 92% of listed buildings fall into this category. Most private residential buildings are of this type.

Scotland grades their properties slightly differently into three categories A, B and C:

  • Category A – “Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic or fine little altered examples of some particular period, style or building type”
  • Category B –“Buildings of regional or more than local important, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered”
  • Category C(s)– “Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style or building type, as originally constructed or altered; and simple, traditional buildings which group well with others in categories. A and B or are part of a planned group such as an estate or an industrial complex.”

Owners of listed buildings are affected by this as a listed building cannot be demolished, extended or altered either internally or externally in any way that would affect it’s character. Listed Building Consent must first be obtained, as well as Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval having been granted. Listed Building consent is given by the District Council who are advised on such matters by it’s Conservation Officers, who may also consult with English Heritage.

It is important to know what a listed buildings protections or restrictions are and  heavy penalties can be given for any unauthorised alterations or extensions which include a huge fine or possibly imprisonment. Any alterations which affect the character of the listed building and work requiring consent can range from removing an internal feature to adding an extension and includes both the inside and outside of the structure. Therefore before doing any work on a listed property the local planning authority should be contacted, they will then put you in contact with your local conservation officer. This officer will have the authority to advise, issue or deny permission for any alterations to the building and if you get “listed building consent” they may become involved (depending on the nature of the work involved and the importance of the building itself) with the whole process from deciding which materials and techniques are to be used to overseeing the changes themselves and ensuring the character of the building remains unchanged.

Consent for the partial or total demolition of a listed building is only given in very exceptional circumstances.
In order to alter a listed building to either enhance it or simply to carry out a repair it needs highly skilled tradesmen using sympathetic building materials. Therefore, an architect with suitable qualification or a historic building specialist is advisable. The Council will require that all work carried out blends sympathetically with the existing building. UPVC or aluminium window and doors are usually unacceptable.
Listed Building Consent is even needed when Planning Permission is not, for example when replacing windows/doors, painting exterior walls, installing solar panels, alteration or removal of internal features such as fireplaces, panelling and staircases.

It is also advisable to employ a qualified professional with experience of listed buildings to act on your behalf and prevent / foresee any possible problem in the future.

Why do I need listed buildings Insurance

A listed property will require specialist listed building insurance and it is advisable that you speak directly with a specialist insurer rather than arranging listed property insurance through the internet using online quote forms that offer an immediate quote. By speaking to a specialist insurer, they will help  ensure that all your needs are covered and all the facts are disclosed to save problems should you need to make a claim in the future.

In the case of a disaster or even minor repair work, the cost to reinstate the property “like for like” will usually cost more as traditional materials and methods may have to be used to restore the building to the same as before the incident. A local conservation officer or Building Control officer could be involved to ensure this happens and may insist on specialist workmanship or materials to be used, therefore if you have a listed building, then it is important you have insurance for listed buildings.

Neill Kimber ACII is Managing Director of Highhouse Insurance and has a keen interest in historical buildings, he will be pleased to discuss your insurance requirements for your listed property or structure.

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