“It’s Only The Front That’s Listed!”

If I had a pound for every time I’ve had a conversation with owners and builders regarding their listed building who are convinced that only part of the building is listed, I would be sunning myself on a Caribbean beach.

It is not unusual to hear that “only the door is listed” or “the inside isn’t listed”, however, nothing could be further from the truth.  The misconception amongst owners and builders that only certain parts of the building are listed usually arise from the brief description given by Historic England in their published list of Listed Buildings.

These descriptions are only there for identification purposes and will only highlight any notable features externally and occasionally internally if access has been given.  Understandably perhaps, this leads people to the wrong conclusion that only the areas mentioned in the listing description are important and the rest of the building is ‘normal’.

The truth of the matter is that when a building is listed, it means ALL of the building is listed; this includes the external and internal parts of the building as well as any items that are permanently fixed in or on the building.

The listing of a building also includes any structure in the curtilage of that building that has been there prior to 1947; this could be outbuildings, walls, statues, and the like.

The important point to note then is that any works to remove or alter any part of a listed building could result in a contravention of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Not all works will require formal Listed Building Consent.  However, to remove any parts of the building without proper consideration to its architectural and historic importance may result with those removing fixtures being fined or even serving a prison sentence.  The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 is the only planning act where contravention can result in a prison term being served.

When working on a listed building, there must be recognition of why the building is important enough to be designated as a listed building.  There will usually be some architectural and historical interest in the building; or it may be that the building is of an age and largely in its original form which needs to be protected.  There may be developments within a building that are important, such as the first cooking range of a type to be used or an architectural development.  The point here is that there are many reasons why a building is listed.

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The overriding consideration when looking at any repairs to a damaged listed building should always be to stand back at first and do nothing! A heritage specialist should always be involved before any works are undertaken as they understand the issues surrounding repairs to these unique buildings and can ensure any works are undertaken within the requirements of the Planning Act.

As an example of what could go wrong without involving a specialist, let’s take a look at a flood damaged listed building. There have been occasions where remediation contractors have been instructed to strip out buildings to dry the structure. This approach is entirely wrong in a listed building, as the removal of floorboards, skirting boards, lime plaster, timber panelling and the like is against the requirements of the Planning Act and against all accepted conservation principals. Should any items be removed and disposed of, the onus of blame could come down on all parties involved in the decisions that resulted in the removal of what the Planning Act deems are important parts of the building. This could lead to arguments and actions over who is ultimately responsible, whose reputation will be dented by their actions, who will be fined and, potentially, who might go to prison?

Listed buildings are a finite and important resource in the UK. The listing of a building provides it with the level of protection that is required so that they are not lost or altered through ignorance.  Any unsympathetic intervention could result in the loss of what is important in that building and that’s why the potential repercussions are so serious.

So, when you hear “IT’S ONLY THE FRONT THAT’S LISTED!”, think again and don’t get caught out!!!

QuestGates Heritage has the expertise required in the repair and project management of listed buildings.  If you have any claims that require expert handling contact Dale Launders at dale.launders@questgates.co.uk or for a conversation and advice call him on 07595 452511.

Author: Dale Launder PG Dip CHE MRICS BDMA Ins Tech