Listed Buildings- The hard reality

There are currently slightly in excess of 374,000 listed buildings in England and Wales.  The great bulk of these (approximately 95%) are Grade II listed which is the lowest category.  They range in size from a small cottage to some of the largest buildings in the country.  All buildings constructed before 1700 containing a substantial proportion of their original fabric are listed whilst most of such buildings constructed between 1700 and 1840 with those requirements are also listed.  After 1840 listing is based on more selective criteria usually involving aesthetic merit.  A number of listed buildings are less than 30 years old.  Newer listed buildings include for example the tower of the Lancaster Service Station on the M6.  As the intention of the legislation is protection and preservation it comes as little surprise that the law concerning listed building is rigorous and restrictive.  Any work, other than repair, to a listed building requires listed buildings consent.  There is therefore in practice parallel legislation for listed buildings running alongside normal planning requirements.

A common misunderstanding in relation to listed buildings is that internal works do not require any particular consent.  This is absolutely not the case as when a building is listed whether or not there is reference to any internal features the whole building is protected and any alterations internal or external require listed building consent.  Anyone carrying out unauthorised work, such as a contractor, or allowing to happen, such as an owner, can be prosecuted.  There is also no time limit for enforcement action.  A well known anecdote circulates concerning the owner of a listed building who asked the listing officer informally whether an additional en suite bathroom could be constructed only to be told that he would not be granted consent and that he now had to reinstate all the existing six en suite bathrooms (installed by his predecessor) to their original condition.  There is also no immunity period for the issue of a listed building enforcement notice.

Given the enormous level of protection and restriction concerning listed buildings do they enjoy any fiscal or statutory advantages?  Previously VAT was zero rated upon approved alterations (not repairs) to a listed building.  This relief will now only continue until the 30 September 2015 provided application for such consent was applied for prior to the 21 March 2012.  Grants are available from English Heritage (the supervising body) for repair and conservation of the most significant historic buildings – mainly for urgent repairs or work to prevent loss or damage to important features.  Initial applications are dealt with locally and in reality a large number of successful applications are granted in connection with the preservation of Churches or similar historic buildings.

There is, however, one significant advantage in the ownership of a listed building for a property investor because 100% business rates relief is still available when listed commercial premises fall vacant.  In city centres this has proved in recent years an unlikely free bonus to the owners involved.

Alaisdhair Macphie smallAlaisdhair MacPhie

Real Estate Partner

If you have any queries in relation to this article, please do not hesitate to contact Alaisdhair at


2 thoughts on “Listed Buildings- The hard reality

  1. I always got the impression that listed buildings had a lot of red tape associated with them. So buying and restoring one was probably going to cost far more than you would expect. I hadn’t even considered the financial breaks that were available and zero rated VAT on alterations is certainly a bonus.

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