We have bought a Grade II Listed building that has had several modifications over the years prior to purchase. After nearly two months the local authority and English Heritage have not responded to any contact and as we own it and only want the best for our biulding we are just going to plough on and make it beautiful and ensure that everything is done properly.

However, the lack of interest is making us slightly edgy and we cannot afford the fines etc that could ensue. All we want to do is make it good. The building was broken into prior to purchase and the vandalism was extensive. As the house has so many add ons are we good just to restore and turn it around or should we persevere with the overstreched local authority? Please help!!!!

  • Daisy Jeffery

    It’s not uncommon for owners of listed buildings to feel a certain amount of frustration with the system which sometimes seems to go out of its way to obstruct good intentions to bring neglected old buildings back to life. In fairness, however, one person’s idea of what constitutes a ‘beautiful home’ might turn out to be a conservationist’s nightmare. So, by necessity, the system is a little ponderous so it can pre-empt misguided works, such as ripping out historic features or smothering old buildings behind fake stone cladding and polyurethane foam.
    The general rule with listed buildings (of all grades) is that consent is required for all but the smallest changes, both inside and out. You even need permission to rectify inappropriate modern ‘add-ons’, such as replacing dodgy recent extensions or unsightly plastic windows. The good news is that consent will normally be granted for sensible improvements like these, plus you can tap into the local authority conservation officer’s knowledge and experience. However, not all works need permission. Providing the proposed changes don’t affect the character of the building, consent is not normally required. So you’re normally OK making like-for-like repairs or replacing modern kitchen and bathroom fittings. The test is whether it ‘alters the character’ of the building, although this can include seemingly innocuous things like changing the colour of the external paintwork, cleaning stonework or stripping timber beams. So the simple answer with your project is to hold your horses a bit longer and start pushing the various authorities to do their job! Sometimes picking up the phone can get quicker results than emailing, so be prepared to spend time on the blower chasing the local conservation officer and English Heritage.
    It’s important to remember that, when buying a listed building, you can be liable for any past illegal works carried out without permission. Authorities have extensive enforcement powers, including fines, prosecutions and requirements that a building is returned to its former state at the owner’s expense. Where there is pre-existing vandalism, this needs to be brought to the attention of the local authority, perhaps supported by evidence from the estate agents who sold you the property.
    If all else fails, it may even be worth taking out an indemnity policy to protect yourself against enforcement for any unauthorised works. Finally, with this being a listed building, the authorities may want further input into the precise style of your painted timber windows and doors, including colour choice!

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