11 March 2016 by

Listed Building Consent – What it is and why it is important?

A listed building is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national importance, in terms of architectural or historic interest, and is therefore included on a list approved by the Secretary of State.

When a building is listed, that encompasses both the interior and exterior of the building.  This may also include any objects that are attached to the building or otherwise form part of the land.  There are special planning controls which apply to listed buildings and which are intended to prevent the alteration, demolition or extension of a listed building without specific permission from the local planning authority.  The approval given under these controls is called listed building consent and is an additional requirement to any regular planning permissions that may need to be obtained from the local planning authority.

Listed buildings are classified into three grades:

Grade I – buildings of exceptional interest

Grade II* – particularly important and more than special interest

Grade II – buildings of special interest warranting every effort being made to preserve them

The majority of buildings listed in England are Grade II listed buildings, which make up 94% of all listed buildings in the country.

To carry out works or alterations to a listed building without the relevant consent is a criminal offence and there is no time limit on when the local planning authority can commence enforcement action. If works are intended to be carried out – or are carried out – to a listed building, without listed building consent, the local planning authority has the power to:

  • Prosecute
  • Take listed building enforcement action
  • Apply to the court for an injunction

Prosecution

The aim of prosecuting, where there is a lack of listed building consent, is solely to deter others from committing the same offence.

Not knowing that the building is a listed building is not a defence.  If successfully prosecuted, the offence can carry a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, or an unlimited fine, if sentenced in the Crown Court; or a maximum of six months’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine in the Magistrates Court.

Enforcement Action

In addition to prosecution, the local planning authority can at any point also issue a listed building enforcement notice. There is no time limit for the issue of this. This enforcement notice can require that the property is restored to the condition it was in before the unlawful works were carried out.

Injunction

Where the local planning authority anticipates a breach of the listed building regulations, it can only seek an injunction from the County Court or the High Court to restrain an actual or likely breach if that course of action is considered to be necessary and expedient by the local authority. Defending such injunction proceedings can be very difficult as the courts have shown a reluctance to intervene in decisions of local planning authorities, who are charged by Parliament with deciding whether listed building consent should be granted or refused.  For example, in a case in 2008, the High Court held that a local planning authority was entitled to an injunction to stop a property owner from demolishing its Grade II listed building, despite the fact that the building in question was seriously damaged, with part of the roof collapsing during initial remedial works.

This is a brief guide to the regulations in place and what can happen if they are breached.  The important thing to remember is that, if you own a listed property, you should always seek the approval of your local authority before carrying out any works (of any sort) on the building, to ensure that your plans are fully compliant with the legislation.

If you own a listed property, or are considering purchasing one, and you have any queries on how the listed building regulations affect you, please contact us on 0207 288 4700

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