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Listed buildings

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Listing is a short-hand term used to describe one of a number of legal procedures used by English Heritage to protect the best of our architectural heritage. When buildings, or other structures, are listed they are placed on statutory lists of buildings of 'special architectural or historic interest' compiled by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, on advice from English Heritage.

Architectural interest: all 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: this includes buildings which illustrate important aspects of the nation's social, economic, cultural or military history close historical association with nationally important buildings or events group value, especially where buildings comprise an important architectural or historic unity or are a fine example of planning (such as squares, terraces and model villages)   The older and rarer a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most built between 1700 and 1840. After that date, the criteria become tighter with time, because of the increased number of buildings erected and the much larger numbers which have survived, so that post-1945 buildings have to be exceptionally important to be listed. Buildings less than 30 years old are only rarely listed, if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.

Listed buildings are graded to show their relative importance: Grade I buildings are those of exceptional interest Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest Grade II are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them There are 370,000 or so list entries currently protected by listing, and of those by far the majority - over 92% - are Grade II. Grade I and II* buildings may be eligible for English Heritage grants for urgent major repairs.

You will need to get listed building consent from your local council if you want to demolish a listed building or any part of it, or alter it in any way which would affect its character, inside or out. Repairs which match exactly may not need consent, but your local council will advise you on this as the effect of any repairs is not always straightforward. Examples of work which may need consent include changing windows and doors, painting over brickwork or removing external surfaces, putting in dormer windows or roof lights, putting up aerials, satellite dishes and burglar alarms, changing roofing materials, moving or removing internal walls, making new doorways, and removing or altering fireplaces, panelling or staircases.

Your first step should be to contact your local council before you make the application. The conservation officer will tell you whether your proposals are likely to be accepted. This could save you time and money. It is often best to employ a professional who is used to working with listed buildings. Local authorities deal with all listed building consent cases and will give you the appropriate form for making your application. The majority of cases are dealt with by the local authority, but the most important cases are referred to English Heritage (Notifications) and sometimes to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Referrals). Your application will need to include enough information to show clearly what you intend to do, with detailed drawings and photographs.

It will usually take at least eight weeks after you send in your application form for a decision to be sent to you. If consent is refused you have six months in which you can appeal to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Carrying out unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or a prison sentence and the local council can require you to put the building back as it was.

There is a very high demand for English Heritage grants and priorities have been set for the type of projects that they will fund: Significant elements of the historic environment which are at risk. A building will be considered to be at risk if it is either on the Buildings at Risk Register or you can demonstrate that it is at serious risk from neglect or disrepair.   Projects where there is a lack of alternative sources of funding. In order to qualify for a grant under this heading, we will need to be satisfied that you are not eligible for any other obvious sources of public or charitable funding, for example from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Single Regeneration Budget and specific funding (such as funding for coalfields or housing).

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