Planning permission – the good, the bad and the ugly. Part One.

Finding the charming thatched cottage of your dreams or a stunning Tudor house to call home is one thing. Finding out that its listed is quite another. Shaun Soanes explores why listed doesnt necessarily need to mean the ringing of alarm bells and why securing planning permission is perfectly possible.

The older the building is, the more likely it is to be listed. From thatched cottages to grand manor houses, there are listed buildings up and down the country, and all come with a certain level of prestige. After all, you’re not just buying a new home. You’re buying a piece of national heritage.

Buildings are given a listed status to mark their historical interest and to prevent them from any damage that might detract from that.

In order for a building to become listed, it must satisfy various criteria. Grade II denotes structures of “special interest,” Grade II* “more than special interest,” and Grade I “exceptional interest.” It’s a special club to be part of, but as much as you may love the quirks of the building, most of us will want to carry out renovations at some point or other, be they big or small. This is when things start to get more complicated, and where it’s vital that you proceed with caution, because carrying out unauthorised work on a grade listed building is actually a criminal offence.

Planning permission

When it comes to carrying out alterations to a listed building, both inside and out, it isn’t as straightforward as it would be for a non-listed building. In order to stay within the law, you must secure planning permission and consult with your local authority to do so.

A listed building is a protected building and you can’t start any work until you’ve gone through the necessary lines of procedure. While this may sound daunting, securing planning permission is in fact very possible and although it can be difficult, it isn’t something to be put off by. It’s a case of going about the process in the right way, first time around.

It often takes time and patience; your application will need to be accompanied by detailed drawings of your plans too, which is why it’s often best to enlist the help of professionals and architects to smooth the process.

What you can and cant do

When it comes to what you want to do to your listed building, each case is judged individually, but it is worth remembering that English Heritage have confirmed that up to 90 per cent of listed building consent applications are approved.

Listing can cover a whole building, including the interior, unless parts of it are specifically excluded in the list description. It can also cover other attached structures and fixtures, extensions and pre-1948 buildings on the attached land. So it is worth keeping in mind that when a building is listed, consent is required for work that will alter its external appearance, or work that will alter it internally. This doesn’t mean that nothing can ever be altered at all, but it does mean that inappropriate work cannot be carried out.  For example, you can’t use breeze blocks and cement mortar to fill holes in Tudor lath and timber. You will also normally need consent for replacing doors and windows, removing internal walls and changing fireplaces.

This is something that your local authority conservation officer will be able to advise on.

When planning goes right

At Nicholas Jacob Architects, we often work with clients on listed homes.

The team at NJA recently helped the owners of a Grade II listed home to successfully secure planning permission for a large development, which includes some extension modernisation and improvement work.  The proposals see the development increase by more than 8,800 sq ft to a total of 15,600 sq ft.

As with all our restoration projects, we have been able to guide the owners along the most practical, cost-effective and feasible path to updating their property, without deviating from the rules.

If you have a listed property you want to make changes to or are considering buying one, feel free to contact us. After all, by far the most sensible strategy is to work with architects, designers and service engineers to make your vision practical as well as admissible.

By entering into a constructive dialogue with the planning authorities, a fusion of the old and the new is very possible.

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