What is a listed building?

Buildings are identified by English Heritage and placed on a statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Listing is undertaken when a building (or structure) demonstrates national significance to the historical, social, cultural, industrial, economic and political development of England.

The main criteria used in determining whether a building should be listed are set out below:

  • age and rarity: most buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840. The criteria become tighter with time, so that buildings built within the last 30 years have to be exceptionally important to be listed, and under threat too. A building has to be over 10 years old to be eligible for listing
  • 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
  • historic interest: this includes buildings which illustrate important aspects of the nation's social, economic, cultural or military history
  • close historical association with nationally important people or 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)

The government's document principles of selection for listing buildings provides further information on the approach to assessing buildings and structures. In addition, English Heritage has produced a series of designation selection guides for different categories of designated heritage assets.

Listed buildings are classified in grades to show their relative importance. The majority of listed buildings on the national heritage list for England are grade II (buildings that are nationally important and of special interest) with a small percentage grade II * (buildings that are particularly important and of more than special interest) and an even smaller percentage grade I (buildings that are of exceptional interest).

Listed status protects a building against unauthorised demolition, alteration or extension. It ensures that its special interest is taken into account when proposals are put forward which affect its character or appearance.

Procedure for requesting listing

Anyone can suggest a building to English Heritage for listing by visiting their website and completing the application form. Before English Heritage can take forward an application, they need a certain level of information, both about where the building is, and why it is of special interest. As much information as possible should be provided, and a typical checklist is set out below:

  • a street location plan to identify the building and surrounding land
  • copies of any plans and elevations of the building (with the permission of the architect)
  • copies of articles from any source giving a history or background information about the building, the architect or any famous people associated with it
  • photographs (external and internal) of the building and any important features

English Heritage examine the case and make a recommendation, but the decision on whether to list is taken by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. If the building is included then the relevant local authority and owner is notified accordingly.

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This page was last updated on 7 April 2016

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