What is a listed building? A beginner’s guide

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What is a listed building? A beginner’s guide

What is a listed building? A beginner’s guide

Amy Davidson 11 Dec 2018

A recent Court of Appeal ruling has brought to the fore some of the misconceptions around what a listed building is and can be. The word ‘building’ itself can be misleading.

In England, listed buildings are designated under section 1 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (“The Act”). In the case of Dill v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the appellant argued that Listed Building Consent was not required for the removal of two Grade II listed limestone piers with lead urns as they are not buildings. In the ruling, Lord Justice Hickinbottom stated that “…being on the list is determinative of the status of the subject matter as a listed building…”; furthermore, he also noted that the word ‘building’ is not defined in The Act but in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which defines a building as: “’Building’ includes any structure or erection, any part of a building, as so defined, but does not include plant or machinery comprised within a building.”

Some misconceptions about what a listed building is includes:

1. They are all buildings.

Some listed buildings do not conform to what many of us would normally consider a ‘building’. Sculptures, cairns, water pumps, lamp-posts, telephone boxes, mileposts, the Cutty Sark (a suspended ship) and water troughs are all examples of listed buildings. Even a cobbled street, Conduit Hill in Rye, is a listed building as is the Grade II listed Victorian urinal illustrated above. This principle has been reiterated by the above-mentioned ruling.

2. They are old.

Generally speaking, buildings over 30 years old are eligible for listing (although there are exceptions). This means that as well as parts of Hadrian’s Wall, more recent buildings, such as the famous case of the post-modernist No. 1 Poultry (designed in the 1980s and built in the 1990s), can also be listed.

3. Only the building mentioned in the name of the list entry is listed.

Possibly, but this requires a case by case assessment as under The Act any object or structure fixed to the building is part of the listed building, unless specifically excluded in the list description; similarly, structures/objects within the curtilage may also be part of the listing. Fixtures and fittings are also a consideration.

This is a particularly tricky area of listed building legislation and can require detailed research and expert input. Historic England has recently published advice on listed buildings and curtilage.

4. Only the exterior of the building is listed.

The listing (and therefore the relevant statutory requirements for listed buildings) relates to the interior of a building, its exterior and sometimes its curtilage. Therefore, unlike planning permission, Listed Building Consent may be required for internal works.

5. The listed building is only what is described in the list description.

Not correct. The list description was originally intended simply to help identify the building and sometimes only provides a brief description of the exterior; the interior may not even have been visited when it was assessed for listing (see point 4 above). Accordingly, the description is not a definitive account of the extent of the listed building or its special interest. An amendment made to The Act in 2013 allowed for new list entries to be more specific about where the special interest of the building lies and to define the extent of the listed building. However, currently Historic England applies this provision on a selective basis so this only applies to a relatively small number of listings at the moment. We discussed this in a recent blog on Leeds General Infirmary.

Amy Davidson is a Senior Heritage Consultant based in Lichfields’ London office.

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