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Listed buildings…What are you talking about?

Updated: Sep 15, 2022


We have written about listed buildings before, and so I thought it was about time we explained what they actually are, in case you do not already know.

Listed buildings in the UK are buildings which have been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic interest, there are just over 500,000 buildings in the UK to which this applies.

A listed building cannot be demolished, extended or altered without getting special permissions given by the local planning authority. Only certain churches are exempt from this, but in any case, the church organisation will operate its own permissions procedure. The particular permission which is required for a Listed Building is Listed Building Consent and is in addition to Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval that will probably be needed too. Usually Listed Building Consent is given (or refused) by a Historic Building Department, and this is more often than not, part of the Planning Department within a council's organizational structure. However,  it is not uncommon for the Planning Department to give approval but for the Historic Building Department to refuse (or visa versa).

This list is made up of buildings which are from the 1700s or beforehand and are still near their original state or have been altered over the years in a way that is thought to be exceptional or instructive, take, for example, Bedford Castle which got its first mention in 1138 (that doesn’t mean that it did not exist before 1138, it may well have for all we know, that’s just when it was first mentioned in writing).  It is not only buildings which are included in this list though, bridges, monuments and statues can also be included. Any post 1945 buildings have to be of exceptional interest to the nation to be listed. The Milton Keynes shopping centre is an example of a modern listed building, this is because of its exceptional nature (love it or hate it, you have to admit it is unusual) and some wartime “pill boxes” would you believe have also been listed, in their case because it is excepted that as time goes by, they will be lost or altered and so some should be conserved for future generations to see.

There are three grades of a listed building, and they are as follows:

  1. Grade 1 – Grade 1 listed buildings are buildings of exceptional interest, sometimes they’re considered to be internationally interesting. Only around 2.5% of listed buildings are grade 1.

  2. Grade 2* (note the star) – These buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest. Around 5.5% of listed buildings are listed as grade 2*.

  3. Grade 2 – These are nationally important and of special interest, around 92% of listed buildings are grade 2, this is the most likely grade for residential buildings.

I hope this brief explanation has helped you to understand a little about listed buildings and when you hear architects and planners use this term you will, hopefully, have a better idea as to what they’re talking about.

Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Blogging Guru.

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