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Tower Bridge Historic Listed Building

Listed buildings and conservation areas

What are listed buildings?

Listed buildings are buildings with cultural, historic (whether this is cultural, militarily or are associated with important people) or architectural (in terms of architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship) importance. A list of these buildings is kept protecting and conserving these buildings so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Anyone can nominate a building for the list if they think the building is of note. Historic England also has a strategic plan to list buildings which fall within certain categories. In either case, buildings will be put forward to be assessed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who will have the final say on whether a building is listed or not.

Buildings are not just listed if they are old. For example, the civic centre in Plymouth is listed and was built in 1962 due to its unique butterfly roof” and its part in the regeneration of Plymouth after the war, however, it tends to be more likely if they are. All buildings built before 1700 are listed and most buildings built within 1700-1840 are listed.

Related: What is a homebuyer’s report?

How to find out whether your building is listed

A database of listed buildings can be found on Historic England’s website where you can see the listed buildings in you area by just typing in your postcode. It is important that people are aware if their property is listed as it may come with restrictions in terms of refurbishment, repair and extension. These are explained below. It is also something we will always check at our building surveyor Kingston office.

Categories of listed buildings

Grade 1- this is the highest grade with the most stringent requirements in terms of conservation. They must be of exceptional interest. Only 2.2% of listed buildings are listed at Grade 1

Grade 2*- buildings which are of more than special interest and consists of 5.8% of all listed buildings

Grade 2- the most common type of listed building with 91.7% of all listed buildings. These are more likely to be dwellings in which people live rather than the other two stated above.

Examples of Grade 1 listed buildings

  • Blackpool Tower
  • Warwick Castle
  • King’s College London Chapel
  • Tower Bridge, London
  • Birmingham Town Hall

Examples of Grade 2* listed buildings

  • Rise Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Battersea Power Station, London
  • Capel Manor House, Horsmonden, Kent
  • West House, Calderdale
  • Coliseum Theatre, London

Examples of Grade 2 listed buildings

  • Broomhill Pool, Ipswich
  • BT Tower, London
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London
  • Birmingham Back to Backs, Birmingham
  • Surbiton railway station, London

Related: 6 Spookiest Properties in London

Listed building consent

If a building is listed it doesn’t automatically mean that no alterations can be made to it. Normally when significant changes are made to a building planning permission is required. With listed buildings, listed building consent is needed as well as planning permission. This will be sought from a local conservation officer who will scrutinise any plans which are made. They may then prevent work if certain conditions are not met having considered all factors and whether the buildings special character is being damaged. It is illegal to alter a listed building without these consents.

In general, the factors which must be abided by and understood when renovating or extending a listed building are that the external appearance of the building should not change. That all materials that are replaced are replaced with similar materials. That if there is a change of use that it should not change substantially than its original use and if it does then considerations are made for this.

What are conservation areas?

Conservation areas are whole areas with special or architectural interest as put out in Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 69. This section requires local councils to designate areas such as these periodically if they are of special interest.

They are also required to extend these areas where necessary, meaning that you should be aware of any changes as it may abruptly affect your house. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport can also designate areas to be conservation areas in exceptional circumstances where the area is of national interest.

Related: What to look out for if you’re buying an old house

You can find whether your property is in a conservation area by looking on your local council’s website. Your local council website can be found with LPA finder. If the website has a “my neighbourhood” section then it is often stated within this, whether it is in a conservation area or not. Some other websites have a large interactive map in which you can search your postcode.

The conservation areas are marked in colours on this map. In other websites, there are downloadable PDFs of each individual conservation area. These are not always named due to the specific area and so it can be hard to find out. It may be necessary to go through every PDF map of each conservation area. This is something we do for every survey that we carry out at our building surveyor Kingston office.

What are the restrictions in a conservation area?

In a conservation area permission from the local council is normally needed for certain alterations. This is generally anything that can alter the outside appearance and can range from extensions to solar panels. This is likely to be more stringent than for normal planning permission consent. For example, in the Richmond Hill conservation area the fronts of the buildings are not allowed to be altered. However, the rear of the buildings can be altered.

The extent of this includes upgrading the windows to uPVC from the single glazed wooden sash windows which were originally there. This cannot be done at the front but can be done at the rear elevation. Furthermore, the front elevation windows can be upgraded to double glazed wooden sash.