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Typical questions Architects get asked about listed buildings

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Our local planning officer tells us that it's her `opinion' that governs what we can and can't do to our house (Grade II). Is that true? What if we disagree?

The simple answer is 'yes'.

In the first instance it is the planning officer's interpretation of the proposals that governs what can be done. This assumes the planning officer is following the correct procedures and evaluating your proposals against the relevant prevailing planning policy.

If your house is Listed (of which there are various grades), it holds a `special historic or architectural interest'. Be aware that it is a criminal offence to carry out work to a Listed building without consent.

The planning officer has clear and established government policy for all planning decisions, including those made in respect of Listed buildings.

The key principles are to identify the significance of the building, any features, and how the proposed works will impact on the building's historical or architectural importance, and its future viability.

Early consultation with a Conservation Architect provides you with an experienced view of how likely it is that the proposals will be granted planning consent. We would recommend that the planners are consulted under a 'pre-application process' so they can confirm their position informally without the expense of preparing a full planning application.

With our extensive experience and conservation accreditation we have the expertise to guide you through this process.

What if my 1850s house has 1960s and 1980s materials such as fibreboard, artex or plastic guttering?

In order to answer this question it is first necessary to understand which materials (from any period) have significance, as these should be repaired or replaced 'like for like'.

For past repairs completed using materials seemingly at odds with the special character of the Listing, there is a case to replace with appropriate materials, subject to obtaining the necessary consent.

A good starting point is to look at the Listing to see if there are any specific references to materials and in order to gain an understanding of the building so that no unnecessary damage is caused. The understanding needs to encompass: the building's special qualities, its character and significance, how the building is constructed and how it performs, the condition of the building and whether it has any defects that need attention.

A building survey by a specialist such as a Conservation Architect can help to identify the components and materials of significance, as there are a number of reasons for significance, not just age, such as work by a prominent craftsman, or a pioneering example of a material or technology.

Best practice is to minimise the need for any replacement by ongoing regular maintenance and only replace original materials when they have failed in their structural purpose.

Do local authorities hold a stock of period building materials when buildings are demolished, to aid homeowners keen to engage in accurate conservation?

Unfortunately not.

For homeowners keen to engage in accurate conservation there are three choices available, subject to meeting the criteria of historical significance required by the Listing.

The first is the incorporation of salvaged materials from architectural salvage yards. Local yards are a good starting point and there are also several internet companies offering materials. In all cases we would recommend that you question provenance. This can be an excellent way to produce an authentic visually matched result but can prove hit and miss as materials are often 'one-offs' and there is no database as such

Another avenue may be to try a specialist in the field, for example if you are trying to track down a certain type of stone used in your building, a stonemason may be able to help. You could commission a craftsman to produce a matching component from an original material or matching alternative.

If your house is a Listed building (of which there are various grades), it holds a `special historic or architectural interest'. Be aware that it is a criminal offence to carry out work to a Listed building without consent(s), new timber sash windows and so forth may well prove equally successful.

Do you live in a Listed building, a historic building or are looking to take on a conservation project and need advise on planning consent? Get in touch with our experienced Architects today to discuss your residential or commercial project.

Call 01392 459777 or email to discuss your heritage building further.

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