Listed buildings

 

Cornwall is fortunate in having a rich heritage of building, important both architecturally and historically. Such buildings are admired for their craftsmanship and to lose them would be to lose a vital part of Cornish character and cultural heritage.

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There are 12,664 Listed Buildings in Cornwall with the greatest concentration in the North East of the County. Buildings are listed to give them protection from unsympathetic alteration and demolition. This does not mean that they cannot be altered but the legislation is designed so that any proposed work to a listed building is given full and proper consideration.

Guidance is available in the form of printed leaflets which are available from Council offices. There are also a number of frequently asked questions below.

A 'listed building' is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national historical or architectural interest (and can include objects and structures attached to the building or in its grounds - see what is included?’ below). It is included on a register known as a ‘statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest’, which is administered by Historic England, a government agency.

Buildings and structures are assessed to define their significance with the greatest care. Many old buildings, and indeed many recent buildings, are interesting, but listing identifies only those which are of 'special interest' in the national context. The main criteria used are:

Age and rarity:

  • All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition
  • Most buildings from 1700 -1840 are listed if they are relatively untouched
  • Between 1840 and 1914, only buildings of definite quality and character
  • Between 1914 and 1939 selected buildings of high quality and/or historic interest
  • Buildings constructed after 1939 of exceptional quality
  • Buildings that are less than 30 years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat
  • Buildings less than 10 years old are not listed

Architectural interest – buildings which are nationally important for the interest of their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship; also important examples of particular building types and techniques and significant plan forms.

Historic interest – buildings which illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural or military history; close historical association with nationally important people and events.

Group Value – especially where buildings are part of an important architectural or historic group or are a fine example of planning (such as squares, terraces and model villages).

Further detailed guidance is provided by English Heritage through their recently published selection guides, which can be viewed at Historic England - Heritage Protection.

Listed buildings are classified in grades to show their relative importance. However, this does not mean that a Grade I building is more worthy of preservation than a Grade II building. The three grades of listing are as follows:

  • Grade I: Buildings of exceptional interest (only 2% of listed buildings)
  • Grade II*: Buildings of particular importance and of more than special interest (4% of listed buildings)
  • Grade II: Buildings of special interest which warrant every effort being made to preserve them.

Buildings are listed so that their particular qualities can be protected by legal safeguards. The listing of a building brings to its owner a degree of responsibility for part of the nation's heritage. It has been said that we hold these buildings in trust for those that come after us. Any works to a listed building, including demolition, alteration or extension, internally or externally, which in any way affect its special character will require listed building consent.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is required to compile lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, and conservation policies are based on these lists. Historic England is now responsible for maintaining and revising these lists and advising the Secretary of State.

Historic England is responsible to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the statutory lists.

Buildings are added through periodic re-surveys or reviews of lists for particular areas, through studies of particular building types to establish relative merit and through ‘spot listing’ of individual buildings under threat.

Although there is no requirement to consult the owners before a building is listed, English Heritage has introduced a consultation procedure, which is normally followed unless there is a danger of imminent damage to the building. Full details of this procedure can be found on the Historic England website.

The Council is not responsible for listing buildings but can, where an unlisted building is under threat, serve a ‘building preservation notice’ which effectively lists the building for a period of six months or until the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport includes the building on the statutory list.

At the moment there is no right of appeal against a listing and no right to compensation for the loss of redevelopment options; however, if you consider that a decision has been wrongly made (for example because there was a factual error or an irregularity in the process which affected the outcome) you may contact the Department of Culture, Media and Sport within 28 days of the date of the listing decision letter to request that the Secretary of State review the decision.

Further details of the review criteria, process and how to request a review are available from Historic England and from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) website.

When a building is first listed the owners and occupiers are notified by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and from the Council and the listing is entered into the local land charges register. This will include a short description of your property, identifying the important aspects of the building. The description itself has no legal significance and is not intended to guide any planning decisions. If the building was listed before you became the owner the solicitor’s search should have drawn your attention to this fact.

To find out whether your property is listed you can look on Historic England's National Heritage List for England website.

The whole building or structure is listed, including both its interior and exterior. Boundary walls, railings, buildings and other structures within the listed building, and its historic curtilage may also be included if they were built before 1 July 1948. The curtilage is the land within which the building is set and which belongs (or once belonged) to it, and is (or was) used with it. It can often be difficult to determine, so if you are in any doubt about the extent of your buildings curtilage contact the Council’s Conservation Team who will be pleased to help.

There is no such thing as a listed façade nor can interior features be listed separately from the building; even modern elements of a building such as later alterations and additions are included. Fixtures that form a permanent and integral part of the building such as fireplaces and doors are also included in the listing. It should be assumed that most fixtures and fittings are listed.

Garden walls, buildings and/or railings if attached to the listed building are also protected.

The setting of a listed building is an important factor when new developments or extensions are being considered by the Council. List descriptions are intended primarily for identification purposes and are not a definitive list of important features.

By submitting the Do I need planning consent or building regulations form you will be requesting a check as to the need for planning permission, listed building or conservation area consent and/or Building Regulations. With regard to planning, this will constitute an informal response as a definitive response can only be obtained through the submission of a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development.

There is a charge of £47.00 inc VAT for the planning, listed building or conservation area consent check, but the Building Regulation check is free and you should receive your response within 10 working days.

The form and further information on what should be submitted is available via the link above and at the main planning offices.

Historic England is responsible for the administration of the listing system. For further information and an application forms please visit the Historic England website or contact Historic England at: southwest@historicengland.org.uk

Historic England
29 Queen Square
Bristol
BS1 4ND

Anyone can apply to Historic England to have a building considered for addition or removal from the list. Buildings can be added to the list through ‘spot listing’ when it has been found that they have been overlooked or new information becomes available. The more information that is supplied, the quicker a listing application can be dealt with. You do not need to be the owner of a building to apply for ‘spot listing’.

The current condition and cost of repairing or maintaining a building or plans for its redevelopment are not material considerations in deciding whether a building should or should not be listed. These are matters dealt with through the listed building consent procedures.

Requests for de-listing will also not be considered when:

  • there is a current application for listed building consent relating to the building
  • there is an appeal against refusal of consent
  • if any legal action is being taken by the Local Authority

There is no requirement to consult the owners before a building is listed but unless an inspector is aware of a specific threat, they will contact the owner or leave a visiting card. At the present time there is also no right of appeal against a listing and no right to compensation for loss of redevelopment opportunities.

If you wish to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend it in a way that affects its character as a building of special interest, you must first obtain listed building consent from the Council. In addition the works may also require planning permission or building regulations approval.

Applications for listed building consent should be made on the Council's listed building application forms, which are available on the application forms for planning with guidance web page. There is no fee.

When considering your application the Council will presume in favour of preserving the character of the listed building. Consent for partial or full demolition of a listed building will only be given in exceptional circumstances, where absolutely necessary. Where appropriate Historic England and specialist amenity groups are consulted before the Council grants consent.

It is a criminal offence to demolish, alter or extend a listed building without obtaining listed building consent. The penalties for this are usually a large fine, and sometimes imprisonment.

If you wish to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend it in a way that affects its character as a building of special interest, you must first obtain Listed Building Consent from the Council. It is a criminal offence for anyone to carry out works without consent, or to order them to be done. Listed status covers a whole building, inside and out, and may also apply to buildings in the curtilage of the listed building (see 'What is the curtilage of a listed building?').

Each building is different and so there are no sweeping rules for what you can or can't do without consent, but in general terms demolitions or extensions will require consent; other common works that might also need consent could include the replacement of windows or doors and/or alterations to openings; knocking down or altering chimneys, internal walls, floors or ceilings; altering or removing fireplaces or other internal features (cupboards, panelling, staircases etc.); painting or rendering walls; changing roof materials or inserting dormers; attaching signs, lights, satellite dishes and so-on.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and is included for guidance purposes only. It is better to check with the Council first in order to avoid an expensive mistake. Please contact the planning householder team or view the Do I need planning consent or building regulations webpage.

By submitting the Do I need planning consent or building regulations form you will be requesting a check as to the need for planning permission, listed building or conservation area consent and/or Building Regulations. With regard to planning, this will constitute an informal response as a definitive response can only be obtained through the submission of a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development.

There is a charge of £47.00 inc VAT for the planning, listed building or conservation area consent check, but the Building Regulation check is free and you should receive your response within 10 working days.

The form and further information on what should be submitted is available via the link above and at the main planning offices.

Old buildings require special attention when they are being repaired, renovated or altered. Features that are demolished cannot be replaced, and there is a strong presumption in favour of appropriate repair, which can also be cheaper and more sustainable than replacement.

The repair or alteration of listed buildings requires a high standard of craftsmanship and professional skill. We strongly advise owners to appoint a specialist architect or surveyor who is experienced in historic building work.

While it is always best to check first, some minor works may not need consent. Internal redecoration, the renewal of furnishings and the replacement of internal fittings such as lights or radiators will probably not need consent if the main fabric of the building is not affected. However, note that in some cases it would affect the special character of the building to strip internal joinery of its traditional paintwork finish, or to remove rare original wallpaper. Normal maintenance and appropriate repairs carried out by expert craftsmen using original material are also usually exempt.

If in doubt contact the Conservation Team for advice on individual cases using the contact details on the right hand side of this page or the view the Do I need planning consent or building regulations webpage.

By submitting the Do I need planning consent or building regulations form you will be requesting a check as to the need for planning permission, listed building or conservation area consent and/or Building Regulations. With regard to planning, this will constitute an informal response as a definitive response can only be obtained through the submission of a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development.

There is a charge of £47.00 inc VAT for the planning, listed building or conservation area consent check, but the Building Regulation check is free and you should receive your response within 10 working days.

The form and further information on what should be submitted is available via the link above and at the main planning offices.

You are advised to contact the Conservation Team for advice before carrying out emergency works. On the very rare occasions where this may not be possible emergency works can only be carried out to a listed building without prior consent providing you can subsequently prove all of the following:

a) that works to the building were urgently necessary in the interests of safety or health or for the preservation of the building and

b) that it was not practicable to secure safety or health or, as the case may be, the preservation of the building by works of repair or works for affording temporary support or shelter and

c) that the works carried out were limited to the minimum measures immediately necessary and

d) that notice in writing justifying in detail the carrying out of the works was given to the local planning authority as soon as reasonably practicable.

Note that it can be useful to ask Building Control Officers for advice as to the minimum measures needed, as these can often be less than you think.

If you can’t prove all these mitigating circumstances, you may still be liable for prosecution for carrying out unauthorised works. 

Any works granted listed building consent must normally begin within 3 years from the date of the consent. Consent may be issued with conditions attached, such as approval of sample materials before works commence. Any conditions attached to the consent must be addressed, and care should be taken to ensure that builders are working from, and in accordance with, approved drawings.

The listed building consent will not be valid unless all the conditions on the decision notice are complied with and the works are executed in accordance with the approved plans. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with any condition attached to the consent so it is vital that conditions are discharged before work relating to the conditions commences on site.

If consent is refused, or granted subject to conditions, which are considered unacceptable, an appeal may be made to the Secretary of State. Appeals must be made within six months of the date of decision. Full details of this process are supplied with decision notices.

It is a criminal offence for anyone to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend it in any manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest without obtaining listed building consent; this applies to those who carry out the works as well as those who order them to be done. Proceedings can be taken for the offence which can result in a large fine and/or imprisonment.

If works are carried out to a listed building without consent enforcement action may be taken to restore the building to its original state or to comply with conditions attached to a listed building consent. There is no time limit for taking listed building enforcement action.

Failure to obtain consent often comes to light during the sale of a property and may make the building difficult to sell until unauthorised works are remedied. If you buy a property with unauthorised works you may become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with them.

The Council’s Conservation Team can provide specialist advice on works to historic buildings. Traditional materials and skilled traditional craftsmen are locally available.

Applicants are advised to enlist the services of a specialist architect, surveyor or consultant with a particular knowledge or historic buildings, before submitting their application. 

Application forms are available from the Council’s application forms for planning with guidance webpage. There is no fee for a listed building consent application and full guidance notes are provided to help applicants.

If you are considering submitting an application for Listed Building Consent the Conservation Teams and Planning Service welcome and encourage the opportunity to provide advice, prior to the submission of your application, by you or your agent. The purpose of this pre-application advice is to understand what you wish to achieve and to identify potential problems or conflicts at the earliest possible stage. By exploring any different options that may be available to you abortive work can be avoided and standards of work ensured in order to protect the historic environment. For further information please go to the Pre-application planning and building control advice pages of this website.

With your application you will need to supply detailed drawings of the building as it exists, details of the alterations you propose along with a Listed Building design and access statement (see below). Drawings have to be accurate and will often have to include large scale details. It will sometimes be necessary and always helpful to include photographs.

Your completed application should be returned to the Planning Section who will advertise your application in the local press and by a notice on site. 

For further information please go to the Pre-application planning and building control advice pages of this website

Application forms are available from the application forms for planning with guidance page.  There is no fee for a listed building consent application and full guidance notes are provided to help applicants.

If you are considering submitting an application for Listed Building Consent the Conservation Teams and Planning Service welcome and encourage the opportunity to provide advice, prior to the submission of your application, by you or your agent.

The purpose of this pre-application advice is to not only raise the standard of works and to protect the historic environment but also understand what you wish to achieve and explore any different options that may be available to you and to identify potential problems or conflicts at the earliest possible stage so that abortive work can be avoided. This will help speed up the process. For further information please go to the Pre-application planning and building control advice pages of this website.

With your application you will need to supply detailed drawings of the building as it exists, details of the alterations you propose along with a Listed Building design and access statement (see below). Drawings have to be accurate and will often have to include large scale details. It will sometimes be necessary and always helpful to include photographs.

Your completed application should be returned to the Planning Section who will advertise your application in the local press and by a notice on site. There is no fee for a listed building consent application.

The Council should issue a decision on listed building consent applications within 8 weeks from the receipt of a valid application. The Council endeavours to deal with all applications within this period, although this is not always possible. If a decision is not issued within 8 weeks, there is a right to appeal to the Secretary of State against non-determination.

In some circumstances with applications affecting Grade I or II* listed buildings, the Council must notify the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) where it intends to grant consent. This can add up to 28 days to the process, although the Secretary of State can indicate that they wish to extend this period. If the period is extended, there is no time limit. The Council can refuse an application in these categories without referral to CLG.

Pre-application discussions and application information which is as comprehensive as possible are the best way to avoid frustration over time delays.

Following determination of an application the applicant’s agent will be notified by means of a decision notice which will also list any conditions placed on the proposed works or, if the application has been refused, reasons for this decision.

An application for listed building consent is advertised by the Council in the local press and by posting a notice on site.

There will be a period of three weeks after this when members of the public may comment if they wish.

If a proposal is submitted with insufficient or inaccurate information, especially as a result of an inadequate survey and assessment, timetables and budgets can be adversely affected. Central government guidance in Planning Policy Statement 5 stresses the importance of submitting enough information in an application to understand the potential impact of any proposal.

There is no facility to amend a listed building consent and it may be necessary to submit a completely new application to change the details of any consent received. It is therefore important in the first stage to undertake a thorough appraisal and evaluation.

For general information on what is required with your submission please see the Council’s planning advice and guidance page.

To find out more about Listed Building applications view the following websites:

The best use for an historic building will usually be that for which it was designed; it will be essential when a building is redundant to find an appropriate and viable alternative use that is consistent with its conservation.

Where a conversion scheme is proposed attention should be paid to the original plan form and to features such as staircases, fireplaces, ornamental plasterwork and panelled doors. The character of the internal spaces may restrict subdivision or opening up of space. Bathrooms and kitchens should be carefully located to minimise the effects of new pipe-work and other services; it will be necessary to provide details of sympathetic means of upgrading for fire separation or for insulation and ventilation where appropriate.

If the proposed conversion is considered to harm the historic significance of the building, you may have to demonstrate that there are no viable alternative uses or other potential owners/users.

Most owners take reasonable steps to maintain their buildings in a sound state of repair. If the building falls into disrepair, however, the Council has various powers to seek its preservation.

If the building is empty or partly empty the Council can serve an urgent works notice, specifying basic repairs to make the building safe and secure. If these are not carried out within a reasonable period the Council can do the works itself and recover the costs from the owner. The Council can also serve a repairs notice requiring that an occupied building is put in good order. Ultimately if the necessary repairs are not done the Council can make a compulsory purchase order.

Not all listed buildings are cared for by their owners. In certain cases of deliberate neglect or long term vacancy, a listed building is put on a register of Buildings at Risk. A register is also drawn up by Historic England for Grades I and II* listed buildings

If you are aware of an historic building which is either derelict or not being properly preserved, you can contact the Council’s Conservation Service using the contact details on the right hand side of this page, who will inspect the building and advise you what action they intend to take.

Owners of Grade I and II* properties may be eligible for grants directly from Historic England. The Funds for Historic Buildings website is a comprehensive guide to funding for anyone seeking to repair, restore or convert for a new use any historic building in the United Kingdom which is listed, scheduled or in a conservation area and of acknowledged historic merit. It includes details of virtually all substantive funding sources which specialise in historic buildings, as well as many (including a variety of regeneration programmes) which provide funding for historic building projects within a wider remit. There are also a wide range of bodies issuing grant aid locally and it may be worthwhile contacting the Council’s Regeneration Service to check the latest situation about the availability of grants.

New works to listed buildings which have received listed building consent may be eligible for zero rating. Works of maintenance or repair are not normally eligible to be zero rated. Further information on this subject is available from HM Revenue and Customs advice web pages, or their advice line: 0845 010 9000.

Much time and money can be saved in maintaining and repairing a listed building if the right methods and materials are used.

A good understanding of traditional building methods and techniques is vital and regular maintenance will not only remove the need for radical change but will also avoid long-term structural defects.

Repair is almost always preferred to restoration. It is often the soft contours, variety of textures and unevenness of the walls and roofline that give a building character. Details such as tool marks on stone, ripples in crown glass and patina on ancient surfaces all too often disappear with inappropriate restoration. Every year historic features are needlessly destroyed during renovation works, often as a result of lack of sympathy or knowledge.

Useful advice on maintenance is provided in the 'Stitch in time' publication published by the IHBC and SPAB.

Think before you purchase. The special character of a building can be quickly obliterated by the ill advised and hasty action of a new purchaser. Think, is this building right for you? If you prefer vast uncluttered spaces don’t purchase a cramped Cornish cottage with low ceilings, small rooms and few windows. Don’t assume you will get consent for large extensions. Don’t buy an old building unless you are prepared to accept its individual character; if you want straight walls, razor sharp corners and level floors – perhaps think about buying a modern house!

SPAB have some guidelines on buying an old building in their 'Look before you Leap' document.

For further information please contact the conservation team using the contact details on the right hand side of this page.

In addition to the information available through Cornwall Council, you can find out more by visiting the following sites: