Please find listed below advice on owning a listed building. There are also some useful links to guidance available on the Historic England website, amongst other external bodies. These can be found at the bottom of this page and to the right in the Links section. A downloadable document is available in the Documents section on the right also.
What is a Listed Building?
A listed building is a building or structure which is considered to be of 'special architectural or historic interest.' Many types of structure from cathedrals to telephone boxes are included.
Listing happens nationally, and each local authority holds a list of structures in their area, hence the name 'listed buildings'. Bath & North East Somerset has over 6,000 entries on the list.
How are the buildings selected for listing?
Historic England is responsible for listing, and it does this on the basis of a set of national criteria.
When a building is assessed for 'listing', both its historic interest and its architectural interest are considered. Its condition is not as important a consideration and buildings may be listed although they are in poor condition.
Buildings are selected for listing on the basis of their architectural interest, historic interest, close historical association or group value. Age and rarity are important considerations.
What are the criteria for listing buildings?
- all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition
- most buildings of 1700 to 1840, though selection is necessary
- between 1840 and 1914 only buildings of definite quality and character, including the principal works of the principal architects
- after 1914 only selected outstanding buildings
- buildings that are less than 30 years old, if they are of outstanding quality and under threat
- buildings less than 10 years are not listed
In selecting buildings for listing particular attention is paid to -
- age and rarity
- special architectural interest or social or economic interest (for example, industrial buildings, railway stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, town halls, markets, exchanges, almshouses, prisons, lock-ups and mills)
- technological innovation or virtuosity
- association with well-known people or events
- group value, especially as examples of town planning (for example, squares and terraces)
What is the difference between the grades?
Listed buildings are graded to show their relative national importance. The three grades are I, II* and II.
Grade I are buildings of exceptional interest (nationally only about 2% of listed buildings are in this grade) Bath & North East Somerset has over 620 Grade I listed buildings, one of the highest concentrations in the country.
Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest (only about 4% of listed buildings) Bath & North East Somerset has over 140 Grade II* listed buildings.
Grade II are buildings of special interest, which warrant every effort being made to preserve them (94% of listed buildings) Bath & North East Somerset has over 5,250 Grade II listed buildings.
There is no legal difference in the protection afforded by these grades.
What is the relevant legislation and national policy?
Current legislation relating to listed buildings is contained within the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
Arrangements for handling heritage applications - Notification to Historic England and National Amenity Societies and the Secretary of State (England) Direction 2015.
What is 'spot listing'?
Sometimes important buildings have been overlooked in earlier lists. Anyone can request English Heritage to consider listing individual buildings or groups of buildings. This process is known as 'spot listing'.
Can my building by de-listed?
There is no statutory right of appeal, but if you think your property is not special enough to be listed, Historic England will consider requests for de-listing in the same way as listing.
Because listing 'appeals' are non-statutory, applications for de-listing are not normally considered if a building is the subject of an application for listed building consent or an appeal against refusal of consent, or where a local authority is having to take action against you because of unauthorised work or neglect.
How much is listed?
The whole building or structure is listed, including both its interior and exterior. Boundary walls and other structures within the building or structure's historic curtilage may also be included. There is no such thing as a listed facade or an interior only, and even modern elements of a building are included. It should also be assumed that fixtures and fittings are listed.
If in doubt, ask the Planning & Conservation Team for advice on individual cases (contact details are listed on the left). List descriptions are intended primarily for identification purposes and are not a definitive list of important features.
What does owning a listed building mean to me?
The special character of listed buildings derives not only from their general form and style, but also from the smallest detail. Their character is therefore fragile and easily destroyed, often by well-intentioned but misinformed decisions.
An understanding and appreciation of the historic building is essential to ensure successful maintenance and alteration. Before carrying out any works to a historic building find out as much as you can about its history, development and details, drawing on information locally available from libraries, museums and archives.
When buying a listed building, any ideas about proposed alterations should be carefully considered. Proposals should not be made hastily before their implications are properly understood. Enlisting the services of a registered architect or chartered building surveyor familiar with the conservation of historic buildings and the planning process is strongly advised.
If you are buying a listed building with the intention of adding major extensions, you must ask if this is the right house for you. Buildings are listed for their present character and appearance, which will rarely survive the addition of major extensions. The setting of a building is also an important consideration. A small listed building in a big plot does not always imply room for expansion.
How should I look after my listed building?
Routine maintenance of a listed building is essential if major repairs are to be avoided.
Traditional materials and technology have proved their worth by lasting until today and give historic buildings their special character.
Like should be replaced with like wherever possible. Consent will often be required for changes and may be required for some repairs.
Existing fabric should always be repaired rather than replaced with new work. Whenever work is necessary, it should always be carefully detailed to avoid damage to old work.
Missing features should only be reinstated where there is good evidence for their original appearance.
Historic buildings are not the place to experiment with new techniques. Tried and tested methods should be used wherever possible.
It is sobering to reflect that a significant amount of repair work is needed to historic buildings to tackle the consequences of well-intentioned but misguided earlier repairs.
What can and can't I do without consent?
Listed Building Consent is required for any works of demolition, alteration, extension or stone cleaning which in any way affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest. In practice, this can mean that even minor items such as changing a door can require consent. Advice can be obtained by writing from the Planning & Conservation Team, Planning Services, Lewis House, Manvers Street, Bath BA1 1JG. Please provide as much detail as possible, this can include sketch plans and photographs. Please be aware there is a charge for this service.
How do I apply for Listed Building Consent?
Applications should be made on Council forms for Listed Building Consent. Please follow the link to online forms or telephone 01225 394041. Details of supporting information required are also included in the Listed Building Consent checklist advice.
It may assist and save time if you discuss any proposed works to a listed building with the Planning & Conservation Team before submitting an application for listed building consent. It is recommended that pre-application discussions are held at an early stage in the process with the Heritage Team as this will assist in the processing of your application. Amendments made after the application is submitted can result in delays.
How long will it take?
The Council should issue a decision on Listed Building Consent applications within 8 weeks from the receipt of a valid application. The Council endeavours to deal with all applications within this period, although this is not always possible. If a decision is not issued within 8 weeks, there is a right to appeal to the Secretary of State against non-determination.
For some applications affecting Grade I or II* buildings, the Council must notify the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) where it intends to grant consent. This usually adds a further 28 days to the process, although the Secretary of State can indicate that the unit wishes to extend this period. If the period is extended, there is no time limit. The Council can refuse an application in these categories without referral to the National Planning Casework Unit.
To avoid frustration over time delays, projects should be properly planned allowing for the entire process, including preliminary survey works and any conditions that may need to be discharged. It is worth compiling a comprehensive package of works to avoid successive applications.
How much will it cost?
There is no fee payable for making a Listed Building Consent application. There is however a hidden cost in the level of drawn detail and supporting information required with an application, which in the majority of cases means engaging the services of a registered architect or chartered building surveyor.
What if consent is granted?
Any works granted Listed Building Consent must normally begin within 3 years from the date of the consent. Consent may be issued with conditions attached, such as approval of sample materials before development commences. Any conditions attached to the consent must be addressed, and care should be taken to ensure that builders are working from, and in accordance with, approved drawings.
What if consent is refused?
If consent is refused, or granted subject to conditions which are considered unacceptable, an appeal may be made to the Secretary of State. Appeals must be made within six months of the date of decision. Full details of this process are supplied with Decision Notices.
What if work is carried out without consent?
Any person who carries out, or causes to be carried out, any works to a listed building without Listed Building Consent, where such works affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest will, on conviction, be guilty of a criminal offence.
Proceedings can be taken for the offence which can result in a large fine and/or imprisonment. Enforcement action may be taken to restore the building to its original state or comply with conditions attached to the terms of any listed building consent. There is no time limit from taking listed building enforcement action.
Failure to obtain consent often comes to light during the sale of a property and may make the building difficult to sell until unauthorised works are remedied. If you buy a property with unauthorised works, you become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with the unauthorised works.
Will I need any other forms of consent?
This Guidance Note has been produced to assist owners and prospective owners of listed buildings. Works to a listed building may also require permission/consents covered by other legislation.
Where do I go for specialist advice and materials?
Ask your agent or the Planning & Conservation Team. Traditional materials and craftspeople skilled in their use are usually available. The use of appropriate materials is essential to preserve the character of buildings.
Can I reclaim VAT?
New works to listed buildings which have received Listed Building Consent may be eligible for zero rating. Works of maintenance or repair are not normally eligible to be zero rated. Further information on this subject is available from HM Revenue and Customs advice line: 0845 010 9000.
Are there any grants available?
At the time of publication there are no Council grants for historic building repair. Owners of Grade I and II* properties may be eligible for grants directly from English Heritage. However, there are a wide range of bodies issuing grant aid and it is always worth telephoning the Projects and Partnerships Team to check on the latest situation about the availability of grants.
This Guidance Note largely expands upon information given in the National Planning Policy Framework.
We very much hope that you will support the Council in preserving and enhancing our built heritage, not just for ourselves to enjoy, but for future generations.
Ten websites about historic buildings and their care
Bath & North East Somerset Council -
Building Conservation Directory -
Historic England -
Georgian Group -
Heritage Information -
Institute of Historic Building Conservation -
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) -
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings -
Twentieth Century Society -
Victorian Society -
These website addresses are given for information purposes only and do not imply any endorsement of the website supplier or the content of these external sites and the Council carries no responsibility for the accuracy of any information on the websites concerned.