Tunbridge Wells attracts property buyers not just for being located in the Garden of England, it is also home to roughly 3,000 ‘listed buildings’, with many more located throughout the South East. This article covers what a ‘listed building’ is and the implications of buying such a property.
What is a ‘listed building’?
A property with ‘listed building’ status is recognised by English Heritage as having special architectural or historic interest.
The property may have links with people or events of historic significance. It may be of a particular age or have a rare architectural design. If the property is at least 200 years old, the chances are that it is ‘listed’.
‘Listed buildings’ are given one of three categories: Grade I, II or II*. 92% of ‘listed buildings’ are Grade II, which means that the property is nationally important and of special interest. Grade II* and Grade I ‘listed buildings’ are considered to be of greater importance and therefore receive greater protection from the local authority’s planning department.
‘Listed building’ status does not just cover the original property, but also later alterations and additions as well as any outbuildings which pre-date 1948.
What are the implications of buying a ‘listed building’?
If you own a ‘listed building’, you must be aware that stricter planning restrictions will be imposed by the local authority if you propose to extend or alter the property, either internally or externally.
If you wish to carry out any extensions or alterations, including works on outbuildings or walls within the property’s grounds, our advice is to consult with the local authority’s Conservation Officer. This person’s role is to ensure that the property’s character is unaffected by any building works. If the works are likely to affect the property’s protected features, you are likely to require ‘listed building consent’. This consent is additional to any planning permission and building regulation consents which may be required.
If works are carried out without the appropriate consents, you will commit a criminal offence. You can be prosecuted for the unauthorised works and be sentenced to pay a fine and serve up to two years in prison. The local authority can also serve a ‘listed building enforcement action notice’, which may require you to restore the property, at your expense, to how it was before the unauthorised works.
There is no time limit on when a local authority must enforce unauthorised works. Our advice is to check, before you are committed to purchasing the property, whether any works have been carried out without the appropriate consents. Given the property’s protected status, standard buildings insurance may be inadequate. The cost of rebuilding a ‘listed building’ is likely to be higher than for a standard property. Our advice is to consult a specialist insurance broker.
It is extremely important if you own a ‘listed building’ that you are aware of, and take seriously, your responsibility to preserve its character and history. This is of course why you bought the property in the first place!