Listed Building Basics

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Listing is a national scheme to help retain the quality of buildings of exceptional character and/or beauty.

What does a listing cover?

A listing covers the whole of the building and its curtilage. This is true regardless of what is or is not recorded. All parts and details of the building are covered by listing.

Listing means you can not alter the building without prior LBC (Listed Building Consent). You may replace like for like when necessary, but this is usually interpreted strictly, so if you remove straw and lime with oak dado you will not be able to replace it with reed and lime with pine dado.

If in any doubt it is best to consult your CO before work. People can be surprised by how much needs consent, for example you are also not free to paint the exterior any colour you like without consent.


Listed building consent
Conservation officer


There are grades of listing, 1, 2, 2*.


Altering a listed building without permission is a criminal offence. If you do so you can be ordered to pay the full costs of having it all put back the way it was.


If a listed building you purchase has been altered without LBC, you the new owner become liable. Its therefore wise to check whether any alterations have been carried out and what permissions have been granted.

Listing sometimes covers features in but not fitted to the building. Purchasing a building with such features missing can land you in legal hot water. Consequently, disposing of such features without LBC can leave you with a building extremely difficult to sell.

Some purchasers may buy with an eye to changing an inconvenient feature of a building. In most cases LBC is not granted. When you buy, you will have to live with what you've bought, so if an aspect of a building is a problem you need to consider that fully before purchase, and find out whether you can alter it before purchase.

The bravest of diyers may wish to browse the local council's Buildings At Risk register. These list architecturally important buildings at risk of destruction due to their poor condition. Most, but not all, are very large buildings. Expect the worst conditionwise.


The need for LBC delays works, and the degree of precision and authenticity required in works, plus the fact that convenience and cost of works are low priorities from the CO's point of view, mean that works on listed buildings generally take much more time and more expense than work on ticky tacky houses.

Listing brings some exemptions from Building Regulations, some of which are debated and argued over between CO and BCO. When they won't agree, you have a problem that can take time to resolve before you can begin work.

Rules of thumb

None of these are true in all cases, but they do apply a high percentage of the time, so are worth stating for the sake of novices to listed buildings.

  • Cement mortar and renders are inappropriate for a wide range of historic buildings.[1] Lime mortars and renders are suitable for most historic building types.
  • Damp treatments are generally not appropriate or permitted
  • Be cautious of people and companies claiming specialist expertise, too often they lack the relevant skills.
  • The material that is being used is sympathetic to the original construction material to be compatible and not create damage link title
  • The original material should be salvaged if still functional and it is reasonably possible to do so.


[1] |Dealing with Inappropriate Cement Renders - SPAB

See Also