In 2008, property developer Kim Davies bought the 16th century, grade II listed Llanwenarth House near Abergavenny. Over the next few years, he painstakingly carried out over £1m worth of renovation work.
Six years later, at Newport Crown Court, he was fined £300,000, with the added threat of 20-months imprisonment if he failed to pay.
His crime? He did the renovation work without first obtaining listed buildings consent.
If you own a listed building and would like to avoid the risk of jail time or a huge fine, this guide explains how listed building consent works and the reasoning behind it.
What is a listed building?
A listed building is a building, structure or object that has been judged to be of national importance due to architectural or historical interest. The building is entered on a register called ‘List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest’, as defined in the ‘Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990’.
Before and after pictures of a listed building renovation project by David Granger Architectural Design Ltd.
Why are buildings listed?
Some buildings are regarded as important to our cultural heritage and sense of identity and are listed to protect the physical evidence of our past. Historic buildings also make a vital contribution to the character and appearance of our villages, towns and cities.
In the case of Llanwenarth House, the seven-bedroom manor house was built in 1532. It was where Irish composer Cecil Alexander is thought to have written the lyrics to the hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, with lines said to have been inspired by the River Usk, which flows close to the property boundary. The building was listed in 1956.
What is listed building control?
Listed building control is a form of planning control which specifically protects listed buildings. Its purpose is to prevent unrestricted demolition, alteration or extensions to listed buildings without the prior consent of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State. These controls are in addition to other planning regulations that usually apply.
If you are looking to carry out any works to a listed building (grade I, grade II or grade II*) that involves:
- alteration or extension in any manner (including internal) which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historical interest;
you’ll need to apply to your Local Planning Authority for listed building consent beforehand.
What happens if you don’t obtain listed buildings consent first?
Any such work undertaken without listed buildings consent is a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum of two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. An offence would be committed by the person who carried out the work (eg. a builder or developer) and by anyone who caused them to be carried out (eg. the property owner).
Which parts of the building are listed?
More than you might expect. A listed building comprises:
- the interior and exterior of the building itself
- any objects or structures that are attached to it
- any objects or structures that have been sited within the curtilage of the building that pre-date July 1948.
The listing, therefore, includes all interior coving, architraves, moulds, timber panelling, fire places and tiling, as well as window frames, exterior detailing and outbuildings.
Is listed building consent the same as planning permission?
No. If you want to demolish, extend or make internal alterations to a listed building, you will also have to apply for planning permission as well. Listed building status can result in the requirement for planning permission where it wouldn’t ordinarily be required.
Listed building consent and planning permission are dealt with separately by your local council. Contact your local planning authority to obtain the correct forms for the works you intend to carry out.
As the owner of Llanwenarth House discovered to his cost, local authorities (and other bodies, such as Historic England and English Heritage) will look to prosecute anyone carrying out work on listed buildings without first obtaining consent.
To avoid any doubt ask your local planning authority before starting work.