Listed building consent – or maybe not!

A short story about working on a listed building.

We are currently working on alterations to a grade II listed building within our office. The alterations include structural and internal alterations. We also have proposals for two modern extensions, which were both approved at committee (conservation officer recommended refusal for one of the extensions).

The works which we have submitted for listed building consent are to preserve the existing fabric of the building; which include an attempt to at least consider sustainability within the existing building fabric and also provide structural strengthening works to support unsupported loads, that have caused severe deflection to localised areas of the building.

We have taken the opportunity to look at proposals to insulate the building within the floors, walls, and roof void to provide a more sustainable design and get close to the minimum standards to reduce heat loss and conserve fuel and power, without we believe substantially altering the character of the property.
The criteria under which all work to listed buildings and a conservation area is basically in layman terms:

That the works to be carried out shall enhance or protect the existing environment

So in simple terms the proposed works must be no worse than what is originally there.
Now don’t get me wrong there is a strong need to protect the existing listed building stock (approx 500,000 listed buildings) but the criteria under which alterations and modifications are considered is very woolly. How do you assess if alterations will alter the character of the building, because in principle any alteration will alter the character as it will change what is already there?

Building Regulations have a similar woolly approach that you shall comply with Building Regulations when improving an existing property. Except when considering a listed building where if the works affect the character of the building the extent of the work to be carried out is at the discretion and approval of the Conservation Officer and consultation with English Heritage for any structural works.

So what is classified as altering the character of a listed building, well some examples are:

  1. Altering the frames, glazing beads, and any detailing of the windows that would alter the appearance.
  2. Replacing glass panes especially old cinder glass that would alter the reflections, as old glass has a different spatial quality from modern float glass.
  3. Changing the proportions of a room for example, by internal lining the walls would alter the appearance of the window reveals and proportions of the room.
  4. Altering, interacting or removing any mouldings, cornices, doors, door architraves.
  5. Altering staircases / balustrades as this would alter the character of the stairs.
  6. Removing, replacing or strengthening any existing structure, you will require approval from English heritage.
  7. Altering or removing fireplaces.
  8. Alterations to the external elevations, which would alter the character.

In fact any works which are carried out to a listed building which were in the curtillage of the property after 1934 are listed, this includes any extension even if it was completed recently, external works including fences, etc, and buildings within the curtillage not mentioned in the listing, so in short any works that affect the character would require Listed Building Consent approval and is subject to approval from the Local Conservation Officer.

So what happens if you carry out works without listed building consent? Each individual offence is open to prosecution of upto a 2,000-pound fine and / or two years imprisonment and is enforceable under criminal law. Yes you will have a police officer present if you are cautioned.

Welcome to the minefield of listed buildings.

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