Buying a historic or unusual building to be your home - whether it's an old cottage, church, windmill or other special building - brings with it particular responsibilities and rules when you're renovating. Discover what you need to know.
By Sarah Warwick
When you buy a building of historic or special interest, it's important to know if it's listed. You should have found this out when (or ideally before) you bought your home, and you can check with your local authority, or in Northern Ireland with the buildings databases at www.ni-environment.gov.uk.
Listed buildings are judged to be of national importance because of their architecture or historic interest, and are on a register. When a building is listed, this affects both the inside and outside, objects and structures fixed to the building, and may include those within the curtilage of the property.
In England, houses are listed Grade I (buildings of exceptional interest, around just 2% of all listed buildings); II* (particularly important and more than special interest, around 5%); and II (of special interest, the remaining 92%). For Wales, listings have the same grades as in England.
In Scotland, the listing categories are A (national importance, around 8%), B (regional or more than local importance, around 51%) and C(S) (local importance, around 41%).
For Northern Ireland, there are four categories: Grade A (national importance); Grade B+ (would merit A status but have minor flaws); Grades B1 and B2 (special buildings).
Listing means you will need consent for changes that might affect the special interest of your home, so you should always check with your local authority - or in Northern Ireland, the planning service with divisional offices listed at www.planningni.gov.uk - whether the work you propose to do to your home needs listed building approval. You can discuss any work you might want to do with the local authority before you make a formal application for listed buildings consent - a procedure that's similar to gaining planning permission. A conservation officer is usually the person with responsibility for this at your local council.
Work will also be subject to the building regulations (with some variation in these applicable to listed buildings) and you may need planning permission, too, depending on what you're doing to the property, and these will be dealt with by the respective role-holders at your local authority.
It's important to note that listed status may mean you need planning permission when you wouldn't in an unlisted home.
Carrying out work without consent is a criminal offence, and you can be made to reverse all the work you've done. Undertaking work without consent could also make it hard to sell your home when you decide to move on.
Local authorities in England make decisions on listed building consent, but they will consult English Heritage if the building is grade I or II*, or in the case of substantial demolition or complicated cases.
In Scotland, local authorities have to get clearance from Historic Scotland for some applications - generally just those for buildings in category A and B - before they issue consent.
In Wales, if the local authority thinks consent should be granted, the application is generally referred to CADW (the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly government) for consideration.
For Northern Ireland the planning service consults Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) as part of the process.
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