Listed Buildings – Our Guide

Scotney Castle from England

What is a Listed Building?

It is estimated that up to two percent of buildings in the UK are listed, that’s approximately half a million buildings and structures.

A listed building (or listed structure) is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland. For the purposes of today’s blog, we look at the position in England and Wales.

A listed building may usually not be demolished, extended or altered without permission from the local planning authority, which typically consults the relevant central government agency, particularly for significant alterations to the more notable listed buildings. In England and Wales, a national amenity society must be notified of any work to a listed building which involves any element of demolition.

Categories of listed building

There are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales:

  • Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.
  • Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
  • Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.

In addition, Grades A, B and C were used mainly for Anglican churches in use (these correspond approximately to Grades I, II* and II). These grades were used mainly before 1977, although a few buildings are still listed using these grades.

What are the criteria for a property to be listed?

The criteria include architectural interest, historic interest and close historical associations with significant people or events. Buildings not individually noteworthy may still be listed if they form part of a group that is (for example, all the buildings in a square). This is called ‘group value’. Sometimes large areas comprising many buildings may not justify listing but receive the looser protection of designation as a conservation area (see our earlier blog on .

The specific criteria include:

  • Age and rarity: As a general rule, the older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings erected before 1700 that “contain a significant proportion of their original fabric” are listed. Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 are listed. After 1840 more selection is exercised and “particularly careful selection” is applied after 1945. Buildings of less than 30 years old are rarely listed unless they are of outstanding quality and under threat.
  • Aesthetic merits: in other words, the appearance of a building. However, buildings that have little visual appeal may be listed on grounds of representing particular aspects of social or economic history.
  • Selectivity: where a large number of buildings of a similar type survive, the policy is only to list the most representative or significant examples.
  • National interest: significant or distinctive regional buildings; for example, those that represent a nationally important but localised industry.

The state of repair of a building is not deemed to be a relevant consideration for listing.

Are all structures that are listed, buildings?

The simple answer is no. Although the vast majority are, there are numerous examples of structures which are not buildings that are registered. Stonehenge and even the zebra crossing on Abbey Road made famous by The Beatles in their classic album of the same name, are two such examples that show just how wide listings can be.

If you have a query on this or any other area of property law why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s leading experts in the field and see what we can do for you?

This blog was prepared by one of Alexander JLO’s property partners, Matt Johnson on the 10th June 2020 and is correct at the time of going to press. Matt is an expert in the field of conveyancing, with a specialism in new build and shared ownership work.

Matt’s profile on the independent Review Solicitor website can be viewed here.



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