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).
- 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
- Building Preservation Notice.
- Cautions or formal warnings in relation to potential listed building offences in England and Wales.
- Certificate of immunity.
- Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works.
- Charging for Listed Building Consent pre-application advice.
- Compulsory purchase orders for listed buildings.
- Conservation area.
- Conservation officer.
- Designated areas.
- Energy efficiency of traditional buildings.
- 'England's Post-War Listed Buildings'.
- Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and listed buildings.
- Fitness for purpose in listing considerations.
- Forced entry to listed buildings.
- Heritage at Risk Register.
- Heritage partnership agreement.
- Historic England.
- Listed Building Heritage Partnership Agreements.
- Local Listed Building Consent Orders.
- Local interest list.
- Listed Building Consent Order.
- Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act.
- Planning authority duty to provide specialist conservation advice.
- Scheduled monuments.
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
- Tax Relief for Heritage: Lessons from abroad.
- The history of listed buildings.
- Use of direct action in heritage enforcement cases in England.
- What approvals are needed before construction begins.
 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.
Responses needed to ‘Call for Evidence on Energy Performance Certificates’, while comments and copies of responses may be sent to [email protected]