The list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest is a Register, compiled by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who record the best of British buildings.
It comprises a wide variety of structures from castles and cathedrals to milestones and village pumps. Not all structures are what we may consider to be 'beautiful' as some are included purely for their historical value. This heritage 'Register' covers the entire country.
Under the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Secretary of State has a statutory duty to list buildings of special architectural or historic interest. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport 'list' buildings to identify our heritage. In choosing buildings for listing, other factors such as the cost of maintaining the building, unsuitability to modern needs and their current state of repair, are not considered (unless this has harmed the architectural interest). The list is a register; it simply puts a mark against those buildings that are considered special. An entry on the Register comprises the address of the building, the grade of building and a brief description of the building to aid identification.
How are buildings chosen to be Listed?
Most buildings were selected for inclusion on the list during the course of the national resurvey of listed buildings that took place throughout the 1980s. Every town in England has at some time, been visited by inspectors from the DCMS and the best buildings have been selected using a set of national criteria. The results of this survey (parish by parish lists) are available at the Council Offices for inspection.
Buildings and structures that may have been over-looked during the re-survey, or whose architectural and historic interest is considered to be of greater importance than in the recent past, can be put forward for spot-listing (see relevant section below).
What criteria are used to list a building?
All the buildings and structures that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport inspect are judged according to a set of national principles of selection for the listing of buildings. These principles of selection are approved by the Departments professional advisers - English Heritage.
The statutory criteria are:
- Architectural Interest
- Historic Interest
The general principles are:
Age and rarity:
Very broadly, buildings that are eligible for listing are as follows:
- Before 1700, all buildings that contain a significant proportion of their original fabric
- From 1700 to 1840, most buildings are listed
- After 1840, because of the greatly increased number of buildings erected and the much larger numbers that have survived, progressively greater selection is necessary. Buildings of less than 30 years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.
The appearance of a building and any group value it may have.
Where a building qualifies for listing primarily on the strength of its special architectural interest, the fact that there are other buildings of similar quality elsewhere is not likely to be a major consideration. However, a building may be listed primarily because it represents a particular historical type in order to ensure that examples of such a type are preserved. The Secretary of State's policy is to list the most representative or most significant examples of the type.
The emphasis in these criteria is to establish consistency of selection to ensure that not only are all buildings of strong intrinsic architectural interest included on the list, but also the most significant or distinctive regional buildings that together make a major contribution to the national historic stock.
State of repair:
The state of repair of a building is not a relevant consideration when deciding whether a building meets the test of special interest. The Secretary of State will list a building which has been assessed as meeting the statutory criteria, irrespective of its state of repair.
Further information on the listing criteria is available in the following link: Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings [PDF].
What are the different grades of listing?
Based on the above principles of selection, buildings and structures are classified into grades to show their relative architectural and historic interest. The three different grades are as follows:-
- Grade I - Buildings that are of exceptional interest (around 2% of all listed buildings)
- Grade II* - Buildings that are particularly important and of more than special interest (around 4%)
- Grade II - Buildings that are of special interest, which warrant every effort being made to preserve them.
How far does the Listing extend?
When a building or structure becomes listed a 'listing description' is written by the inspector. Legislation states that these descriptions should only be considered as indicative, i.e. enough written information to identify the building that has been listed. The listing description, therefore, is not intended to provide a written schedule of every aspect, element or feature of the building or structure. Just because a building element or part is not mentioned in the listing description does not mean that it is not protected by the listing of the building.
Buildings or structures are listed in their entirety. There is no such thing as just part of the building or structure being listed. The listing of the building, or structure, applies to, and protects, all of the exterior and all of the interior. Indeed, with particular reference to the interior of a listed building or structure protection is given under the listing to the historic plan-form of each floor, staircases, fireplaces, chimney breasts, doors, shutters, decorative details and features, floor finishes and structural elements.
In addition to the above, any object or structure fixed to a listed building is also protected by the listing status. Furthermore, any (freestanding) object or structure (such as boundary walls, fences, gates, railing, gateposts, outbuildings etc.) within the curtilage of the listed building, and which were constructed prior to 1st July 1948, are also protected by the listing. Such objects or structures are known as curtilage listed buildings / structures. If you are not sure whether a structure or element is part of the listing please contact the Planning Department.
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