Listed Buildings FAQ

What is a listed building?

Listed Buildings are buildings that appear on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.  The list is administered by Historic England 
This link will take you to an external website...

Listed Buildings are part of our communal heritage, both locally and nationally.  They provide a unique record of the craftsmanship of earlier times and must be protected for the benefit of future generations.

The stock of historic buildings is depleted through demolition, neglect and insensitive or excessive alteration and extension.  Making a building Listed introduces a measure of control by placing special responsibilities on owners and the Local Planning Authority. They must ensure that buildings are properly maintained and are not altered or demolished without careful consideration through the listed building consent procedure. 

Which buildings are listed and what do the grades mean?

Listed Buildings are categorised into 3 grades to indicate their relative importance:

  • Grade I - Buildings of exceptional interest (2%)
  • Grade II* - Buildings of particular importance (5%)
  • Grade II - Buildings of special interest (93%)

There are over 3,500 listed buildings in South Oxfordshire.  They are chosen for a number of reasons, including their architectural style, historical associations, unusual construction methods or their value as part of an attractive group.  The list is not closed and more buildings are added as further discoveries are made and perceptions of what is deemed architecturally or historically valuable change.

Owners have the most important role to play in looking after historic buildings and many take great pride in the care of their property and in preserving its character and atmosphere.

Is my building listed?

When a building is first listed the owner is officially notified by the Department of Culture Media and Sport This link will take you to an external website... and the district council. 

New purchasers of listed buildings should be notified through the Local Authority Search.  If you are unsure whether a building is listed you can check by using the interactive listed building map on this site or by contacting the Conservation and Design Team (see contacts section of this page).

What does the listing include?

It is a common misconception that the listing only covers the frontage or exterior of a property.  In fact, the whole of the building is covered, both inside and out and this includes any modern extensions physically attached to the building.  Internal features such as staircases, fireplaces, doors, floors, panelling and bread ovens are protected as they are an essential part of the building’s character.

The same level of protection applies to a Grade II building as to one listed as Grade I.

In addition, any free standing building or structure within the curtilage which was built before 1 July 1948 is also considered to be part of the listed building.  Such structures may include boundary walls, outbuildings and garden features.  The definition of the curtilage of a building is a complex matter.  Generally it is land that has had a close and continuous relationship with the listed building over many years.

The subdivision of part of the curtilage from the building by hedges or fences does not necessarily exclude it from listed building controls.

When do I need listed building consent?

You will need Listed Building Consent for any work to the building that affects its character.  This includes demolishing all or part of a listed building, alterations (both inside and out), and extension.  

Some repairs which match exactly may not need consent.  However, it is advisable to speak to our Conservation and Design Team because the effect of any repair work is not always straightforward.

Examples of work which may need consent include:

  • changing windows and doors;
  • painting previously unpainted surfaces;
  • removing external surfaces;
  • putting in dormer windows or rooflights;
  • putting up aerials, satellite dishes and burglar alarms;
  • changing roofing materials;
  • moving or removing internal walls;
  • making new doorways or openings; or
  • removing or altering fireplaces, mouldings, panelling or staircases.

It is always advisable to contact our Conservation and Design Team to check whether you require consent to undertake any work.  We may be able to answer your query by telephone.  Please write or email us for a written response. 

To demolish or make alterations to a Listed Building without the proper consent is a criminal offence.  Penalties for unauthorised works are severe.

Can I alter or extend my listed building?

The listing of a building does not necessarily mean that it must be preserved as a museum piece without any form of alteration or extension to suit modern requirements. However, it is essential that any work which affects the character of the building is only carried out after listed building consent has been obtained from the District Council.

Work which affects the character includes alterations to the fabric of the building such as roofs, walls, ceilings and floors, windows and doors (even if they are modern) and to mouldings.  The use of artificial materials such as aluminium and plastic is not acceptable while sealed unit double-glazed windows, even in timber, are often equally inappropriate.  The use of traditional styles, materials and construction methods is strongly encouraged.

Listed buildings can sometimes be extended, provided that the addition is sympathetic in design and materials and respect is shown towards the scale and form of the original building.  However, some buildings cannot accommodate an extension due to their particular architectural design, simple vernacular form or their location.  In some cases, a smaller extension than originally planned may be the only acceptable solution.

It is always advisable to involve our Conservation and Design Team and other officers from the Planning and Building Control Services at an early stage if you are considering extending your property.  Generally it will be necessary to engage an architect, surveyor or other appropriately qualified building professional with a specialist knowledge of historic buildings to draw up a scheme.

Both national legislation and local plan policies clearly rule out demolition unless all other options have been fully explored and found to be unworkable.

How do I apply for listed building consent?

You apply for Listed Building Consent in a similar way as for planning permission, using a listed building consent form. Please note that there are a variety of forms for combinations of different types of application as well which may save you time and effort. E.g. Listed Building Consent with Householder Planning Permission, or Listed Building Consent with Advertisement Consent.

Full and accurate scale drawings showing the property as it is now and as it would be after the work is completed, including details and a supporting justification statement explaining why the work is considered desirable or necessary, should be submitted as part of the application.  Photographs and other supporting material will often also be useful.  Knowledge of the site is also recommended (see the South Oxfordshire Design Guide, Section 1.2). When submitting a Listed Building Consent application you will need to follow this checklist (76.0 KB) PDF

You will need to submit a Heritage Statment as part of your application. We have created the following template which you may find useful - Heritage Statement Template (99.8 KB) PDF

Applications will not be registered unless they include all the relevant information.

Once the application has been received it must be advertised by the Council on site and in the local newspaper.  Various interested parties such as neighbours which share a boundary with the site and the Town or Parish Council will also be consulted.  English Heritage and the national amenity societies (The Ancient Monument Society, The Council for British Archaeology, The Georgian Group, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, The Victorian Society, and English Heritage) will be consulted if the application involves partial, substantial or total demolition.  The Secretary of State will also be notified once the Local Authority has reached a decision in cases which involve an element of demolition and in all cases concerning Grade I or Grade II* listed buildings.

If consent is granted, the applicant generally has up to three years to commence the work before a fresh application is required. There is no charge for an application but a fee will be charged for planning permission should it be required.  You can check our planning fees scale to see how much this might be.  As with all buildings, approval under the Building Regulations may be necessary for works to a listed building.  However, it is generally recognised that, in order to preserve the elements which make the building worthy of protection in the first place, the work may not have to meet the most stringent standards expected of new construction. Once again, early discussion with Building Control Services should result in a scheme that satisfies all parties.

If what you want to do requires planning permission or conservation area consent as well, you will need to make separate applications, and the same is true of building regulations approval.  (Conservation area consent is required for the demolition of a building or structure within a conservation area.)

To demolish or alter a Listed Building without consent is a criminal offence.  Penalties for unauthorised works are severe. 

How does the council determine applications for listed building consent?

The council will assess any proposals to alter or extend a listed building in terms of the effect on the special historic or architectural interest on the building.  We consider each application individually based on its own merits and refer to Planning Policy, both national and local.

Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment and Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide This link will take you to an external website... .

The 2011 Local Plan for South Oxfordshire District Council

These include the following Policy CON4: “Any extension to a listed building must be appropriate to its character, must be sympathetic to the original structure in design, scale and materials and must not dominate or overwhelm it."  Policy CON5:  "Any alteration to a listed building must respect its character and not diminish the special historical or architectural qualities which make it worthy of inclusion on the statutory list."

The council will consult the national amenity societies on applications for listed building consent for works which comprise or include the demolition of the whole or any part of a listed building.

The council will consult English Heritage and the Government Office for the South East of England on applications likely to involve the demolition and/or or material alteration of grade I or grade II* listed buildings.

The Council will notify English Heritage before granting permission for development affecting the setting of a grade I or grade II* listed building.

The Council will notify the national amenity societies of any application for listed building consent for works which comprise the demolition of the whole or any part of a listed building. 

What pre-application advice should I follow?

The Council is happy to offer advice and guidance to owners and agents wishing to carry out works prior to the submission of a listed building application.  There is a fee for this service and, in order for officers to be able to provide a more informed view, we would ask that information be provided to give an idea of what is intended.  This can be in the form of rough sketches, photographs and a brief description of the works.

Please visit our pre-application advice pages for more information and to download the forms.

You can submit pre-application requests by post to:

Planning Service
South Oxfordshire District Council
(see address in Contact section of this page)

Or by e-mail to:

Officers will then aim to provide written comments and advice based on government policy. Should a site visit or office meeting have been paid for, we will endeavour to contact the applicant to arrange the meeting within 10 working days.  This service cannot guarantee success of an application though; the only way to get a full assessment would be to make a formal listed building consent application. 

What are the national amenity societies?

There are six national amenity societies:

What about maintenance and repairs of my listed building(s)?

There is a fine distinction between maintenance or repair to a listed building and alterations which require listed building consent. 
The removal of original materials such as lath and plaster, wattle and daub and their replacement with modern alternatives such as expanded metal lath or plasterboard is an alteration requiring consent.  The progressive loss of original materials and details in the course of repair work can erode the architectural and historic value of the whole building.
The aim should be to engage in a programme of consolidation and repair rather than to carry out wholesale replacement.

Day-to-day repairs and redecoration, except in rare circumstances, are unlikely to require consent. This also applies to works to plumbing, heating and electrical services, provided that the structure of the building and historic details remain untouched.  The repainting of the exterior of listed buildings in different colours may require consent, as does the cleaning of brick and stone.

However minor the works you may be intending though, it is always advisable to check with the Conservation and Design Team before work commences.  Repairs and maintenance should only be carried out by builders and craftsmen with proven experience of historic buildings.  For instance, it is especially important that traditional lime mortar or plaster be used when re-pointing or re-rendering historic buildings.  Traditional lime based breathable washes are also more appropriate than modern paints.  In many cases the use of modern material can cause further damage.

What advice can you offer on purchasing a listed building?

Our advice to you as a prospective purchaser is to consider buying a listed building only if you like it as it is, rather than how it might be if altered or extended. 
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings leaflet  "Look Before You Leap - Guidelines to Buying an Old Building" This link will take you to an external website... elaborates on this advice.
It is the Council’s policy not to provide pre-purchase advice as the resources for doing so would be vast.  However, once you become the owner of a listed building the council are happy to provide advice and guidance.

It is a point worth being aware of that legal liability for any unauthorised works is passed onto the new owner when a listed building is sold.  Should you become aware of any unauthorised works during the process of purchasing a building, or any time afterwards, please contact the Conservation and Design Team immediately for further advice.

Grant Aid:
At present South Oxfordshire District Council do not have the resources to provide grant aid.

Certain alterations for which consent has been obtained are zero rated for VAT. Normal day-to-day works of repair are not exempt. Further advice can be obtained from your local HM Customs and Excise This link will take you to an external website... office.

How is unauthorised work dealt with?

In the first instance, a conservation officer and an enforcement officer are likely to visit the site to assess the nature and extent of the unauthorised works.  They will then prepare a report detailing the observable changes and advising whether a retrospective consent should be pursued or if any additional information is required.

If the works are clearly harmful, the council may serve a listed building enforcement notice to require unauthorised alterations to be removed and reinstatement work to be undertaken.  If the works are irreversible or so damaging that they have severely undermined the building's special interest, the council can consider prosecution of those involved in the works through the courts.  It is therefore very important that owners check whether work requires consent before it is undertaken.

The unauthorised demolition of a listed building, or its alteration without consent, is a criminal offence. An important point with this as opposed to planning law is that it is not just the person who did the works who may be liable for prosecution; the new owner, owner at the time of works, contractors, architect, or any other party directly associated with the unauthorised works are potentially liable.

How do I report a suspected unauthorised alteration to a listed building?

To report a suspected unauthorised alteration to a listed building you can report a suspected unauthorised development online.  Your details will remain confidential but providing them enables us to keep you informed of progress on the matter.  Alternatively, you can contact the Conservation and Design Team (see contacts section of this page).

Last reviewed: 03 - 10 - 2018

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