A listed building is one that has been selected by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as being of special architectural or historical interest. All buildings built before 1700 that survive in a form anything like their original condition are listed, as are most buildings constructed between 1700 and 1840.
However, more recent buildings can also be listed, but the criteria are stricter. In total, there are about 500,000 listed buildings in England, of which just over 14,200 are in Essex.
Listed buildings are awarded one of three grades, depending on the perceived national importance of the building. The grades are:
- Grade I – of exceptional interest, and sometimes international importance. Comprises about 2.5% of all listed buildings;
- Grade II* – of more than special interest. Comprises around 5.5% of all listed buildings;
- Grade II – of national importance and special interest. Accounts for 92% of all listed buildings.
It should be noted that not all old or historic buildings are listed. A comprehensive record of historic buildings and sites can be accessed through the Unlocking Essex’s Past website
Identifying listed buildings
To find out whether a building is listed, you can inspect lists for each district or borough council at their planning offices and most local reference libraries. The list description, together with a photograph, can be found on the Images of England
website. In order to identify a listed building, you will need to provide the following information:
- Full address of the building;
- The district and parish or non-parish area in which the building resides.
The statutory list will provide a brief description of the building which will include an estimate of its age, and identify notable features, but may be limited in scope and, indeed, accuracy. The entire building, interior and exterior, and its curtilage (the area of land attached to and including a listed building) is protected when a building is on the list.
Listed Building Consent (LBC) for listed buildings
It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised work to a listed building without listed building consent, and there are severe penalties for breaking the law.
To alter, extend or demolish a listed building, it is necessary to obtain listed building consent from the local planning authority, which is the District or Borough Council. A copy of the listed building consent application form will be available on their website.
The local planning authority's decisions are informed by specialist advice, provided by their own conservation officers or by the Historic Building and Conservation team at Essex County Council. Listing does not mean that change is impossible, but all changes must be justified, and will be assessed on their impact on the character, significance and historic fabric of the listed building. In the case of applications to Grade I and Grade II* buildings, the local planning authority has to seek the advice of English Heritage.
Owners of listed buildings should contact their local planning authority prior to carrying out works to a listed building, in order to identify what will require listed building consent, and also to take preliminary advice on what may be an appropriate way forward.
Essex County Council has a team of specialist officers who provide advice to Councils, developers, landowners and private individuals on the best way to enhance, preserve and protect historic buildings and their surroundings. They can provide general information on principles of repair and alteration. Advisory books and leaflets can also be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is also worth ensuring that you select an architect and builder with experience of dealing with old buildings.
Decisions about planning issues concerning listed buildings and conservation areas are made according to the legislation contained in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act (1990), and the advice given on Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment (PPS5), and the accompanying Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.