What is a listed building?

A listed building is a building of special architectural or historic interest that is considered important enough to protect. Once identified, these buildings are recommended to be included in a statutory list, which is compiled by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Most people will be familiar with listed houses and churches, but a great variety of other buildings and structures can be protected through listing, including barns, milestones, bridges and railway stations.

The list for buildings in North Devon is available to view at the Lynton House in Barnstaple, or on the web at http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway

Why are buildings listed?

Buildings are listed so that all of our architectural heritage can be protected, from a large stately home to a humble cottage. This is achieved through the planning process. If anyone wants to alter, extend or demolish a listed building, they must first seek Listed Building Consent. Listing a building does not mean it has to be preserved for all time as it is, but the Listed Building Consent process does mean all proposed changes can be scrutinised carefully to make sure they respect the character and special interest of the building.

When are buildings listed?

When considering a building for listing, the criteria are:

  • Architectural Interest – where the building is important because of its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship, or is a good example of a building type or technique, or it has a significant plan form
  • Historic Interest – where the building illustrates important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history, or it has close associations with nationally important people
  • Group Value – where taken together, a group of buildings make up an important architectural or historic whole, eg. terraces, squares, model villages)

Age and rarity are also important considerations. All buildings built before 1700, and contain a significant proportion of their original fabric, are listed. Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840, that have not been drastically altered, are listed. Only buildings constructed after 1840 that have a definite character and quality are listed. Buildings less than 30 years old are listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.

Grades of listed buildings

Listed buildings are graded to reflect their relative architectural and historic interest as follows: NDC listed buildings leaflet

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest
  • Grade II* buildings are particular buildings of more than special interest
  • Grade II buildings are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them

In practice, about 95 percent of listed buildings are Grade II.

How much of the building is listed?

When a building is listed, the listed status always covers the whole building, inside and outside. This includes any fixtures or fittings attached to the building, for example fireplaces and staircases, machinery and millwheels. Any object or structure within the boundaries of the listed building, which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1 July 1948, will also be protected by the listing.

What is Listed Building Consent?

If you wish to demolish, alter or extend all or part of a listed building in a way that affects its character, you must first apply to North Devon Council for ‘Listed Building Consent’. Depending on the type of work you wish to do, you may also need separate Planning Permission and Building Regulations approval. There is no fee for Listed Building Consent, but there will be for the other types of permission. To find out more or get advice, please contact us. It is important to remember that it is a criminal offence to alter, extend or demolish a listed building without consent, and the penalties can be heavy.

What type of work needs Listed Building Consent?

Anything that alters the fabric of a building and affects its character will need consent. Examples are:

  • extensions, such as porches or conservatories
  • alterations or replacements of doors and windows, including shopfronts
  • removal of all or part of any internal or external wall or partition
  • alterations or replacements to internal features, such as staircases, historic cupboards, plasterwork, roof trusses, ceilings and beams, floors, chimneys and fireplaces and for non-domestic buildings, machinery, and other fixtures and fittings
  • changes of material to roofs (including change of thatch type), walls (including rendering or painting previously bare surfaces), wall coverings, windows and doors
  • other additions, such as roof lights, satellite dishes and flues

It is worth pointing out that the intention of listing a building is to protect its special interest and character. Therefore, applications to remove historic features, to use inappropriate materials or to extend it beyond its intended character are unlikely to be successful.

Small like-for-like repairs in general do not require consent and it is wise to ensure that listed buildings are well maintained. As a rule, it is preferable to repair features rather than replace them, particularly windows, as that way, more of the historic fabric is retained.

The repair or alteration of listed buildings requires a high standard of craftsmanship and professional skill. The appointment of a specialist architect or advisor is recommended. National bodies such as English Heritage and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) can give you general advice.

What if a listed building deteriorates?

Sadly, a minority of listed buildings do fall into a serious state of decay and we do have powers under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to take action. This can include serving an Urgent Works Notice, which requires the building to be made wind and weatherproof, or a full Repairs Notice. If the latter does not lead to the building being repaired, the council does have powers of Compulsory Purchase.

Is financial help available?

For Grade I and II* listed buildings, English Heritage may be able to assist, and for buildings with a public function, the Heritage Lottery Fund can be a useful source. For historic farm buildings, grants may be available through the Stewardship scheme. We are no longer able to offer Historic Building grants.

Contact us

We are happy to provide advice on general listed building and conservation matters. If you have any questions, please contact us. In person: Lynton House, Commercial Road, Barnstaple EX31 1DG Telephone: 01271 388288 Email: planning@northdevon.gov.uk Website: https://www.northdevon.gov.uk/do-it-online/contact-us/contact-planning-team/

Information is also available from The Amory Centre in South Molton and The Ilfracombe Centre.

Other useful contacts: