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Listed Buildings and Heritage Assets

Listed and historic buildings, parks and landscapes are collectively known as heritage assets and present unique challenges to those seeking to change their use, make alterations, or even construct new buildings nearby.  Significantly, whilst a breach of planning control is a civil matter, unconsented works to a listed building can be a criminal offence so it is important to have a full understanding of what permissions are required at the early stages of a project.


All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840.  Newer buildings are only listed where they are of particular importance or interest.  There are three categories of listed buildings, which are determined by the importance of the building in both historical and architectural terms; Grade I are of the greatest significance, with Grade II* and Grade II of descending importance.


Listing does not prevent change; listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished, provided the necessary permissions are obtained.  However, they do come with an additional raft of planning controls and often require express planning or listed building consent for minor works which would normally be exempt under permitted development rights.  Listed buildings also affect works within their curtilage, or even proposals within the locality if they affect the buildings ‘setting’.  Anything from a modest domestic extension where the neighbouring property is listed to a windfarm visible from a National Trust estate can be affected.


As well as listed buildings, there are a number of other special protections for different types of heritage assets including:

  • scheduled ancient monuments
  • registered historic parks and gardens
  • conservation areas
  • registered historic battlefields
  • designated wrecks
  • World Heritage Sites

Sworders are experienced in this complex area of planning and the implications it can have for projects; the key to success lies in appreciating the impact proposals will have on the significance of a heritage asset, sensitive design and knowing what additional supporting information is required.  Decisions on whether to allow changes will balance the site’s historic significance against other issues such as its function, condition or viability.


Listed buildings are also often treated differently for tax purposes and can be subject to certain reliefs.

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