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There are over 600 Listed Buildings in the City of London alone, 11,000 in the City of Westminster, and over 374,000 in the whole of England. Some are old and famous, such as the Tower of London (and 8 bollards on the pavement outside the main entrance), Houses of Parliament, Horse Guards, the British Museum and the Bank of England. However, there are also nearly 700 post-1945 Listed Buildings, including the Lloyds Building in the City of London, which was completed by 1987, and the rather unloved Plymouth Civic Centre, which is a 1962 modern office block.
Listed Buildings can be used as homes, offices or commercial premises, but they can also be places of worship, education or transport, sports facilities, industrial premises, bridges and memorials. It can be one building or a group of buildings, e.g. a terrace or part of a street. Some have changed from their original use; Paddington Maintenance Depot was originally built as a garage and depot for British Railways' fleet of parcel vans and is now used for offices. All, however, are regarded as being buildings of architectural or historic interest.
The older the building the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings dating before 1700 that survive in anything like their original condition are listed, and most buildings constructed between 1700 and 1840 will also be listed. Modern listed buildings are usually over 30 years old and regarded as being of extraordinary importance.
Listed Buildings are graded as to their importance. If a building is awarded Grade I status it is regarded as being of exceptional interest (and may even be of international importance), but these buildings are quite rare as only 2.5% of all listed buildings are given Grade I status. Grade II* status is awarded to particularly important buildings of more than special interest, but again it is an award given to only a small proportion (5.5%) of all listed buildings. All the rest are given Grade II status, meaning that they are regarded as nationally important and of special interest.
Listed Buildings are not intended to be museum pieces or frozen in time; they can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished in whole or part, and they can be adapted for different uses. There are safeguards in place to protect their special interest, and before any work can be carried out or any changes made an application must be made to the Local Authority for Listed Building Consent.
If you are buying a property which you think might be listed, you can check if it is by searching on the English Heritage website [www.english-heritage.org.uk]. You can also obtain details of the listing, which will show exactly how much of the building is regarded as being of special interest - i.e. if it is just the exterior or if it includes interior features as well (such as fireplaces, staircases, doors). If you plan to carry out any work at the property you should first check with the Listing Building Officer at your Local Authority as to whether or not Listed Building Consent will be needed. Some of the works that require Listed Building Consent might surprise you, as the list includes replacing windows and doors, re-thatching or replacing the roof covering, renewing the gutters, painting of previously unpainted surfaces, repointing of brick or stonework, internal alterations, changes to the boundary wall or fence, removal of trees, and may also include work to any outbuildings. All authorised works have to be carried out using materials that are approved and are appropriate to the age and style of the building. Maintenance, repair and alteration work is therefore more expensive than for an unlisted property.
It is a criminal offence to carry out works to a Listed Building without Listed Building Consent, and can incur a penalty of either up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £20,000 - but it is only the owner at the time the works are carried out who can be prosecuted. There is no time limit for the Local Authority to take action for a breach of Listed Building controls, and the Local Authority has the power to make the current owner return the property to its former condition if unauthorised works have been carried out, whether those works were done two or twenty years ago. If you are buying a property it is important to check that no unauthorised works have been carried out by the previous owner(s) which you might then be required to put right.
The need to obtain Listed Building Consent is additional to any requirement to obtain ordinary planning consent and building regulation consent.
Ashfords will be very happy to talk over with you all the implications of ownership of a Listed Building, so that you are fully aware of what is involved and can enjoy owning a building of special national importance.