Grade I and II listed buildings

grade I and II listed buildings

Grade I and II listed buildings

What is a Grade I and II Listed building?

So you have found your dream home but you then discovered it falls in the category of grade I and grade II listed buildings. What does this actually mean in practice? If a building is classed as “listed” then it means that it is on the list of “buildings of special architectural or historic interest”. This status protects buildings from being altered that might impact upon the character of the building and any historical context it may have.

The classification may protect the whole building, both inside and out, together with any structures attached to it, including contemporary extensions, or it may only protect a certain feature within the property. It may also include garden walls, outbuildings and even garden statues.

In England and Wales, there are three categories of Grade I and II listed buildings:

  • Grade I – which includes buildings of exceptional interest and amounts to around 2.5% of listed buildings
  • Grade II* – buildings of particular importance (these amount to around 5.5% of listed buildings)
  • Grade II – these are buildings of special architectural or historic interest (around 92% of listed buildings)

When you buy Grade I and II listed buildings, you become the custodian of a unique property which comes with a specific set of responsibilities. During your period of ownership, it is up to you to take proper care of the property.

All buildings built before 1700 are likely to be listed, alongside those constructed between 1700 and 1850. Although some modern buildings are listed if they are considered being of special importance, such as the Royal Festival Hall and BT Tower in London.

Listing a property does not prevent change or freeze a building in time, but in order to make any changes to the building which may affect its special interest, listing building consent must be applied for first. Listed buildings can be altered, extended, and sometimes even knocked down if it comes within government planning guidance. A local authority will use its powers under listed buildings’ consent to decide, balancing the site’s historic significance against other factors, such as its condition, function or viability.

You can always apply for your listed property to be removed from the list. This is called “de-listing”. The Secretary of State can only take into consideration a building’s architectural and historic interest when considering a de-listing application. Owners will have to show new evidence about the lack of special architectural or historic interest of the building, or that there has been a material change of circumstances, for example, fire damage.

Things to be aware of with Grade I and II listed buildings:

  • The property will be on a national register of Grade I and II listed buildings, which is searchable on the Historic England website.
  • You will have to obtain permission from your local authority for any changes or alterations you wish to make to the property, including changes to the internal layout, extensions, or even erecting a satellite dish. This can be time-consuming and bureaucratic.
  • You will need to get specialist insurance. The cost of rebuilding a listed property is likely to be significant, way more than a non-listed building, because the local authority will determine who will rebuild it and even if it will be rebuilt.
  • It will generally cost more to repair and run. You may be required to use specific materials or hire tradespeople with specialist skills to undertake work on your property. Energy efficient improvements, such as insulation or double glazing, may not be allowed.

Grants for Grade I and II listed buildings

Historic England is the public body that takes care of England’s historic environment and often offers grants to owners of historic property if they need repair. The grants are intended for people who own or manage historic sites and need to repair them, and include repair grants, grants to underwrite urgent works and repair notices, and others depending on the work that needs to be done.

Listed Grade I and II listed buildings offences

It is an offence to undertake work that requires listed building consent without that consent being obtained. The offence is deemed to be committed by the person who carried out the works (the builder, for example) and by anyone who caused them to be carried out (either the owner or someone who has instructed the builder). There is no defence in law to state that it was not known the building was listed, although there is a defence to show that works were urgently needed in the interests of health and safety, or for the preservation of the building. However, any work must have been the absolute minimum required and temporary repairs, shelter or support were not practical. Notice must be given in writing, justifying the work to the local authority as soon as possible, given the circumstances.

The maximum penalty is two years in prison or an unlimited fine. When determining the fine, the judge must take into consideration any financial benefit which has accumulated or appears likely to accumulate to the perpetrator denying them any benefit of unsanctioned work. It is also an offence to fail to comply with a condition on a listed building consent. The same defence and penalties apply. 

Tips for buying a listed property

If you are considering buying a listed building, make sure you are fully informed before taking the plunge. You should consider the following when making your decision:

  • Find out the reason the building has been listed. The National Heritage List for England gives specific information as to why the property has been listed and will also give you an indication of the key attributes and features you cannot change. If this does not suit your lifestyle or plans, then you should think twice before buying the property.
  • Think about using a solicitor who specialises in listed properties. They are more likely to understand how the property is constructed and be aware of any special conditions relating to its repair. This gives you a rounded picture of what you are taking on if you purchase the property.
  • Do not assume you will be able to make changes to the property after you have bought it. Many buyers’ fundamental concern is what they can and cannot do to the property, particularly if it needs a facelift. It may be worth getting some advice from a heritage expert. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t tend to need permission to update kitchens and bathrooms, but you should always check with your local authority first.
  • Get specialist advice if you need to deal with damp. Most older buildings will have a much different construction to their modern counterparts. Rather than blocking moisture with impenetrable materials, homes were designed to breathe. If damp has been found to be an issue, you should get a specialist surveyor with expertise in similar property to assess any underlying cause.
  • Check that any previous work carried out has been authorised. If the previous owners have had work done without first obtaining the necessary consent, then when ownership transfers to you, you become liable for correcting any mistakes. This can be an extremely expensive mistake to make. You will also need to ensure your insurance covers this eventuality.

Although you may find this list daunting, you should not let it put you off buying a listed building. Principally, most listed building homeowners and conservation officials have one common goal: to preserve the uniqueness and beauty of these exceptional properties.

Finding out if your property is listed

If you think your home may be listed, the best place to start is Historic England’s website, where they hold a searchable list of all listed properties. This allows you to search National Heritage for England by keyword or postcode. If you have the postcode to hand, it is recommended you use the map search facility, as this allows you to determine whether your property is listed, and if so, at what grade. If neither of these searches elicits the information you require, you should contact your local authority.



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