To avoid being caught out – always check your list!

In the case of Dill v SCLG and Stratford-on-Avon [2018]EWCA Civ 2619, the Court of Appeal confirmed that entry on the statutory list of ‘listed buildings’ is determinative of a building’s status as a listed building, and “one cannot go behind the listing” to consider its validity. The Court of Appeal also clarified each of the ways that a structure or building can qualify as a ‘listed building’.  

The case concerned two moveable limestone piers (in this context the ‘piers’ were similar to an architectural column) dating back to the 18th century, which were each surmounted by a lead urn of the same era. The ‘piers’ had been moved into a grade II listed building in 1973, and were subsequently added to the statutory list of listed buildings in their own right in 1986. The appellant came into ownership of the grade II listed building in 1993 (along with the piers), and sold the piers at auction in 2009 for £55,000 – being unaware that they themselves were listed. When Stratford-on-Avon District Council (the “LPA”) became aware of the sale, the appellant sought retrospective listed building consent for removal of the piers. This was refused by the LPA, who also took enforcement action to have the piers reinstated. The appellant was unable to track down the piers so could not comply with the enforcement proceedings.

An appeal against refusal of the retrospective planning application and the enforcement notice were both refused by an Inspector in January 2017. The appellant then challenged the Inspector’s findings in the High Court, but was again unsuccessful.

On a  further challenge in the Court of Appeal, it was held that “one cannot go behind the listing” and question whether being on the list is determinative of the protected status of a building. Instead, the statutory list is there to provide a “clear and straightforward scheme” for the protection of buildings of special character or historic interest, “to enable members of the public to inspect quickly and easily a published list of protected buildings and regulate their affairs accordingly”. Had the statutory list been checked in the present case, the appellant would have been aware of the listing. A strict application of the law was therefore required to preserve the transparency and authority of this list.

Helpfully, the Court of Appeal also took the opportunity to clarify the ways in which something may qualify as a ‘listed building’, those being:

  • It is included on the statutory list maintained by the Secretary of State; or
  • It is an object or structure which lies within the curtilage of a building which is on the statutory list and has done so since 1 July 1948.
  • It is an object or structure fixed to a building which is on the statutory list; or

For those living in a listed building, the case highlights the importance of knowing the extent of your listing – and ensuring you’re aware of any other fixtures or fittings attached to the building (or have in the past been attached to the building) which may also be included. Local planning authorities, the Planning Inspectorate and the Courts will not be sympathetic to ignorance of the statutory list – even where any transgression of the law applying to listed buildings is carried out innocently and in good faith.

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