Homes that boast architectural idiosyncrasies or period features are particularly sought after and if a building is 'listed' it is officially outstanding. The list is a register that records buildings considered to be special because of age, rarity, architectural merit/technical innovation or association with a famous person/event. It can include village pumps or tower blocks as well as castles and houses.
Not all listed properties are necessarily 'aesthetically pleasing' or ancient - although a building generally has to over 30 years old to become listed. Birmingham's Bullring Centre Rotunda is listed as a prime and rare example of 1970s architecture, although it isn't exactly a traditional image of beauty. Listing a building means that its architectural and historic character must not be affected if alterations to either the exterior or interior are proposed.
If you're buying a listed building, it's unlikely that you'd do so without knowing it was listed. If you suspect but don't know for sure, your local authority will be able to tell you, and will also confirm if the building is within a conservation area. As a rule, buildings put up before 1700 which are still close to their original condition are generally listed, as are most built between 1700 to 1840. Thereafter, criteria are much stricter.
There are three listing grades, broken down as follows:
Grade I - buildings of exceptional interest.
Grade II* - buildings of particular importance/more than special interest.
Grade II - buildings of special interest that warrant every effort to preserve them.
There are currently 500,000 listed buildings in the UK, 90% of which are Grade II. Designation and grading are decided by English Heritage and qualifying conditions vary slightly in Scotland and NI.
If you like the idea of living in a listed building you can see lists covering your area at your local planning department, county council offices and most local reference libraries. Equally, if you think a building should be given or withdrawn from listed status you can write to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and they will consider your proposal.
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