Planning with PKS: Living In, Altering and Buying Heritage Properties
In the third part of our series on the UK Planning system, we explore the challenges of living in, or searching for, listed buildings or properties in conservation areas, as well as how they contribute to the National Planning Policy Framework, and how we can help you with your needs.
What is a Listed Building?
According to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, a Listed Building is one category of “designated heritage assets” controlled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In England, the list is maintained by Historic England, and listing a structure acknowledges its “architectural and historic interest”, as well as placing it under the consideration of the National Planning Policy Framework, so it can be protected for future generations.
A building is more likely to be listed if it was built a long time ago, or if there are not many surviving examples of its architectural style. Most buildings constructed before 1850, and all before 1700, are listed, and more recent ones will only make the List if they are an example of a particular design movement or are unique, for example, this Alex Chinneck art piece in Margate.
Listed buildings are split into three grades, which are:
Grade I (exceptional interest) – covers about 2.5% of listed structures
Grade II* (greater interest) – covers about 5.8% of listed structures
Grade II (special interest) – covers about 91.7% of listed structures.
What part of the building is covered by Listing?
Unless parts are specifically excluded from the Listing description, the entire building, including the interior, is included in the List. It can also cover pre-1948 structures, buildings or extensions on land attached to the building, which is known as “curtilage” in the Planning System.
How does Listing affect owners?
If you think you live in a Listed building, you can check using Historic England’s search function.
The recommendation is to live as you would in any other property, in a way that meets your needs, whilst also recognising your responsibility to conserve it and protect its historical character. This can be done by:
Carrying out regular maintenance (e.g. clearing gutters, spotting and fixing leaks, repairing windows etc.)
Contacting your local authority to find out if any extra protection applies
Researching and understanding your property’s design, materials, date and former owners.
And…what if I want to carry out more complex works?
Each grade reflects the architectural and historical importance of the structure, as well as the regulations surrounding their renovation and upkeep. Grade I buildings and structures must be preserved but not altered in any way, and this covers about 10,000 buildings and structures around the country, most of which are over 200 years old. Grade II* and Grade II buildings most be kept mostly in-tact, and any alterations will require Listed Building Consent.
The most common works that have required Listed Building Consent include:
Creating extra living space, i.e. a conservatory, garage or lean-to
Demolishing parts of a structure
Making a property accessible to a disabled person
Altering the home’s internal / external appearance long-term, i.e. painting, leak-proofing, installing gutters and downpipes etc.
Some of these works may also require regular Planning Permission and / or Building Regulation Approval (see previous article). Certain cosmetic changes to improve energy efficiency, such as replacing windows and insulating wall cavities (if your Listed property has them), will also require LBC, but not always.
If works will affect the “character or appearance” of a Listed structure, or if you wish to demolish it, you must apply for LBC through your Local Planning Authority. A Conservation Officer can determine whether consent may be needed, and help you consider how the works will affect the features that make it special. It may also be worth contacting a county archaeologist if the work is external, and specific help groups depending on the style of building, for example, pre-1850s buildings can be advised on by the Victorian Society.
It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works to a listed building, and planning authorities can insist that any work carried out without LBC is reversed.
So…what about Conservation Areas?
Conservation Areas, like Listed Buildings, exist to protect the architectural and historic importance of a place. Generally, there are no greater controls on works that can be done without permission, but “Article 4 Directions”, as they are referred to in the National Planning Policy Framework, restrict certain works on external parts of a property. These are tailored to each area by a Local Planning Authority, in a way that protects the most important elements of buildings and the surrounding area.
Works that require planning applications in Conservation Areas that would not require this elsewhere can include:
Detailed residential changes, e.g. two-storey extensions, dormer windows, stone cladding etc.
Extensions to retail premises (as the appearance should otherwise match existing floorspace)
Floorspace increases in industrial / warehouse buildings
Material changes at schools, colleges, universities and hospitals
Change of property use, e.g. dwelling house to retail, and vice versa
Cutting down or chopping trees in conservation areas generally requires notifying your LPA no less than six weeks before work begins in case a Tree Preservation Order needs to be drawn up to protect it.
Following the Enterprise and Regulatory Act 2013, Listed Building Consent has not been required for demolitions in Conservation Areas, but Planning Permission is still required, as it would be with any other property.
How is this all considered by the Planning System?
According to the seventh paragraph of the National Planning Policy Framework, the Planning System should not only aim for safe and sustainable development, but also development that takes into account the social, economic and environmental heritage of local areas. Government policy for heritage is managed through the Planning System, and is upheld by Historic England in order to conserve the architectural and historical gems of the nation, for the enjoyment of future generations. Local architectural styles and tropes are also heavily considered when drawing up Local Plans.
For more information about Historic England’s Advice Notices and Good Practice Advice for owners, developers and LPAs, visit historicengland.org.uk.
Should I buy a heritage property?
Buying an older building can be highly rewarding, but it is important to take the information above into account, and remember that, before you buy, you should consider the following:
Planning regulation – is it Listed / in a conservation area? If not, are there any protections on the associated land, curtilage or trees?
What materials are the property built from, and what condition are they in? (a structural survey should help with this query)
Specialist organisations, such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), may be able to offer better advice on a Listed property than an estate agent
The cost of living in, maintaining and repairing heritage properties is far higher compared to non-heritage properties
Listed building insurance will need to be acquired from a specialist broker.
Prince Krofa and Sons operates in London and the Home Counties, the location of over half of the UK’s Conservation Areas and thousands of Listed Buildings that date back hundreds of years. We can assist with your planning queries pertaining to this, so get in touch with us via our Contact page or our various social media accounts (links in top right-hand corner), and sign up to our newsletter to find out more.