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If you own or are considering buying a listed building you need to be aware of a number of important legal issues which could affect any structural changes you plan to make now or in the future.

What is a listed building?

A listed building is a structure that has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

This could be because it is of special architectural and/or historic interest and therefore worth protecting. The decision will have taken into account its age, rarity, visual merits, national interest and state of repair.

A listed building includes:

  • The building or structure itself
  • Any object or structure fixed to the building
  • Any object or structure within the area of land the building sits on (known as the ‘curtilage’) if it was in place prior to 1 July 1948

There are three grades of listing:

  • Grade I – buildings of exceptional national importance
  • Grade II* – important buildings of more than special interest, with some national significance
  • Grade II – buildings of special interest but mainly of local importance

A local planning authority can issue a building preservation notice to an unlisted building, which gives them up to 6 months to consider if the building should be listed.

Listed Building Consent

Before you are allowed to carry out any external and/or internal alterations or extensions which could affect the character of a listed building, or indeed, if you plan to demolish a listed building – you will need to apply to your local planning authority for a ‘Listed Building Consent’. This is in addition to any other consent required by the Local Authority

It is not always easy to decide what constitutes an alteration of a building’s character, so it is important to obtain specialist advice before beginning any work.

If you are planning to buy a listed building, check if alterations have been pre-approved through a Listed Building Heritage Partnership Agreement (HPA)

The HPA is an agreement between the owner, the local planning authority and other interested parties such as Historic England, which grants listed building consent for specific works to be carried out. This can reduce the number of occasions the Local Authority need to be involved and can save time and money

A HPA can:

  • Specify the type of work that would or would not affect the character of the building
  • Detail the maintenance and preservation required
  • Put in place arrangements for any specified work

It is important to be aware that even if your listed building has a HPA in place, you will still need to go through the usual channels for obtaining local authority planning permission and/or building regulation approval

You may find that your local authority grants you a Certificate of Lawfulness. This formally confirms that the work you are planning does not require Listed Building Consent because your proposals will not affect the building’s character.

It is important to apply to your local authority before you begin any work as a Certificate of Lawfulness cannot be backdated. It also confirms the works are not liable to enforcement, which will be useful on a future sale

You may also come across Listed Building Consent Orders (LBCO) and Local Listed Building Consent Orders (LLBCO)

An LBCO is a national order that automatically grants listed building consent for any alterations or extensions that would otherwise require a series of applications and enables them to be dealt with by a single mechanism, but they can be subject to conditions.  They usually relate to buildings that require regular routine and repetitive repair and maintenance. An LLBCO is similar but is granted by a local authority and again automatically grants consent for any alterations or extensions to specific types of listed buildings.

It is important to be aware that neither of these orders permit you to completely demolish a listed building.


It is a criminal offence to go ahead with any work which is unauthorised, your local planning authority can take legal action against both the person who carried out the work and the owner who allowed the alterations to occur. The penalties are hefty – with an unlimited fine and up to two years imprisonment.

The rules and regulations relating to listed buildings are complex so it is wise to seek expert planning advice before you embark upon any alterations which could land you in trouble with the local authority.

If you are considering buying a listed building, there’s a lot to consider so it helps to speak to someone that has specialist knowledge such as our friendly and professional team at Mander Hadley who can provide you with advice on all legal issues relating to listed buildings. To find out how we can help you, please contact us.