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Do I really need listed building consent?

If your property is listed by Historic England as a listed property (generally referred to as Grade I, Grade II or Grade III listed), you will need to obtain listed building consent before starting any internal or external works to your property. Failure to obtain listed building consent is not simply a headache when you come to sell your property, it is a criminal offence.

While not all building works will require listed building consent, ‘demolition or works of alteration or extension that affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest’ (1) will require listed building consent from your local authority. Both those who carried out the works and those who arranged the works will be found liable and could receive a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. 

It is not sufficient to state that it was not known if listed building consent was needed. The offence will still be deemed to have occurred (but an exception can be made if the works were needed in the interests of health and safety or to preserve the building).

To rectify such illegal works, a local authority may issue a listed building enforcement notice. This notice will force a property owner to either remove the unauthorised works or to restore the property to its initial state.

Should you carry out works to your property (without obtaining the correct consents) and then move to sell your property, the new owner will be liable for any listed building enforcement notices that are served on the property. As the owner of the property is responsible for responding to the notice, should they fail to do so they will be deemed to have committed the offence (even if they were in no way related to the works to the property).

This year, a London landowner was fined £20,000 for failing to comply with a listed building consent at 103 Bow Road, Tower Hamlets. The property was a Grade II listed building and was part of a row of townhouses which were listed in 1973.  The landowner had begun renovations to the property which included a large extension and the installation of an uPVC window. The landowner not only failed to obtain listed building consent, but the local council looked unfavourably on the works as they were done to provide poor-quality housing. The council served the notice demanding the removal of the extension and the uPVC window (to be replaced with a traditional sash window). The landowner failed to comply with both these requests, plead guilty at the local magistrates’ Court and was subsequently fined.

Obtaining the correct planning permissions and listed building consents are vital should you own a listed building and wish to renovate it. Without the correct consents you are not only committing a criminal offence but you are also ‘letting the door’ open for any future owner to be liable for criminal offences. This can in turn frustrate sales and affect the marketability of your property.

(1) Historic England: Criminal Offences: Listed Buildings and Other Heritage Assets

The law contains a number of criminal offences aimed at protecting historic buildings and sites and at ensuring the appropriate consents are sought when necessary.

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