The Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 creates special controls for the demolition, alteration or extension of buildings, objects or structures of particular architectural or historic interest. Listed building controls apply in addition to normal planning controls.
Listed buildings are added to a register called the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Historic England administers the listing system, but listing decisions are made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Buildings may be listed for a number of reasons:
- Architectural interest (such as design, decoration or craftsmanship).
- Historic interest (for example, if the building is representative of a particular type).
- Historic association (association with nationally important people or events).
- Group value (part of a larger ensemble).
There are three categories of listing in England and Wales:
- Grade I: Buildings of exceptional importance.
- Grade II*: Buildings of more than special interest.
- Grade II: Buildings of special interest.
In Scotland the equivalent categories are Grade A, Grade B and Grade C(s). In Northern Ireland the equivalent categories are Grade A, Grade B+ and Grade B.
There are approximately 375,000 listed buildings in England, of which more than 90% are grade II listed.
Listing can protect the interior and exterior of the building, as well as object or structures fixed to it, and any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which has formed part of the land since before 1 July 1948. Following the introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERR) 2013, it is possible when making a new listing to declare that specific features of the building, or specific buildings or structures attached to, or within the curtilage of the listed building are not of special interest.
Demolition, alteration or extension of a listed building in a way that is likely to affect its special architectural or historical interest is only allowed with the consent of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State.
There are no general rules about what can and cannot be done, as each building is unique and will have been listed for reasons particular to that building. A local authority conservation officer can establish whether proposals are likely to affect a building’s architectural or historical interest and therefore whether listed building consent is required. Listed building consent must then be obtained from the local planning authority. Decisions will generally take 8 to 13 weeks, and appeals can be submitted to the Secretary of State within 6 months. It is not possible to make outline applications for listed building consent.
It is a criminal offence to alter listed buildings without listed buildings consent and the local planning authority can have works reversed if they do not have consent.
Listing is not intended as a preservation order, it simply identifies buildings of interest. Decisions relating to listed building consents should balance historic interest against practical issues such as its function, condition or viability.
An application for a Certificate of Immunity can be made for developments affecting buildings that may be eligible for listing. This can give developers reassurance that the development will not be prevented by a building becoming listed.
Conversely, Building Preservation Notices (BPN) can be used to prevent un-listed buildings from being demolished or altered whilst an application to list them is considered. See Building Preservation Notice for more information.
Planning permission is separate to listed building consent. It is not always required alongside listed building consent. For some works, both planning permission and listed building consent will be required. It is advisable to contact the local authority Conservation Officer as a first stage to determine whether consent is required.
 Other controlled sites
Other controlled sites for which special permissions may be required include:
- Scheduled ancient monuments.
- Registered historic parks and gardens.
- Conservation areas.
- Registered historic battlefields.
- Designated wrecks.
- World heritage sites.
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERR) 2013 introduced changes to the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said, ‘Listed buildings are a rich part of this country’s heritage and it is only right that we try to help those in charge of looking after them. These new measures will uphold levels of existing heritage protection, whilst also simplifying the process so that those within the heritage sector and owners are not bogged down in bureaucracy.’
The changes include:
- The introduction of Listed Building Heritage Partnership Agreements (LBHPA).
- The introduction of Local Listed Building Consent Orders (LLBCO).
- The introduction of Listed Building Consent Orders (LBCO).
- The introduction of Certificates of Lawfulness (CoL)
- Changes to new listings to permit identification of features that are not of special interest.
- Changes enabling Certificates of Immunity (COI) to be sought at any time.
- The demolition of unlisted buildings in conservation areas now requires planning permission rather than conservation area consent.
For more information see Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and listed buildings.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appeals against urgent works notices.
- Archaeology and construction.
- Archaeological officer.
- BS 7913: Guide to the Conservation of Historic Buildings.
- Building archaeology.
- Building Preservation Notice.
- Cautions or formal warnings in relation to potential listed building offences in England and Wales.
- Certificate of immunity.
- Charging for Listed Building Consent pre-application advice.
- Conservation area.
- Conservation officer.
- Designated areas.
- Ecclesiastical exemption.
- 'England's Post-War Listed Buildings'.
- Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and listed buildings.
- Forced entry to listed buildings.
- Heritage partnership agreement.
- Historic England.
- Historic Environment Service Provider Recognition.
- Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
- Listed Building Heritage Partnership Agreements.
- Local Listed Building Consent Orders.
- Listed Building Consent Order.
- Planning authority duty to provide specialist conservation advice.
- Scheduled monuments.
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
- Tax Relief for Heritage: Lessons from abroad.
- Urban decay.
- Use of direct action in heritage enforcement cases in England.
- VAT - protected buildings.
- VAT Policy for historic buildings.
 External references
- Planning Portal: Listed building consent, guidance note.
- British Listed Buildings.
- Historic England: The National Heritage List for England.
- Department for Culture Media and Sports: Listed Buildings.
- Planning Portal: Listed building guidance notes.
- Planning Portal: Listed Building Consent application form.
Featured articles and news
Reports from IHBC’s journal Context that covered the IHBC’s 2016 Annual School visit to Dudley, which covered both the Tecton work at the Castle as well as regeneration in the town, have been used to shape a new article for IHBC’s Conservation Wiki on the modernist work and its conservation.
IHBC trustee John Edwards has featured an article in the November issue of the RICS Property Journal where he ‘argues that traditional buildings are in need of better treatment and understanding’ by the profession.
A £10 million Green Gas Mill, which produces heating for 4000 houses using green gas from grass, has been granted planning permission by Winchester City Council.
Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders is the latest community to benefit from funding from the Scottish Land Fund, with an eco-innovation centre being established in the former Town Hall, a ‘Category B’ Listed Building.
The iconic Grade I (GI) listed Royal Liver Building in Liverpool is to be marketed for sale.
The national architectural charity, the Victorian Society (Vic Soc), released its 2016 Top Ten Endangered Buildings list, while Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society Vice President, has urged people living near the buildings on the list to ‘seize the opportunity' and campaign to save them.
The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has launched its brand refresh with a new logo and strapline: BUILT ENVIRONMENT PROFESSIONS TOGETHER
The ‘Farmer Review’, a report commissioned by the government and carried out by Cast Consultants, has concluded that the construction sector must ‘modernise or die’, being highly critical in relation to its delivery, innovation, investment and training practices.
BBC News explores how the structure of a Grade II* listed 1930s home of Gerald Schlesinger and Christopher Tunnard, managed to help keep a secret that would otherwise have criminalised its owners, as its ‘LGBTQ’ history has now been officially acknowledged in the nations heritage.
The IHBC helps UK Civic Trusts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Conservation Areas, with a fund allocation of up to £2500, including a prize of a place at the IHBC’s Annual School on offer for the most effective project.