If you are looking to get planning permission to extend a Grade II listed property, I’m sure that you’ve encountered at least one conservation officer who is insistent to the point of being pedantic about preserving the character and features of the building.
If you have, this article is for you.
We’ve written before on some more general aspects of listed buildings and planning permission, but today we’ll talk about the important steps you must take in order to secure consent for extending your listed building, as well as some practical, actionable tips on how to maintain character and develop with the requisite amount of sensitivity.
Because our buildings and architecture add character and help to tell the story of our long and interesting history, it is important that listed buildings are protected from insensitive alterations where this rich narrative is lost or muddied.
Listed buildings are listed for their own protection; their history and panache add to the contemporary environment and enrich our architectural vista. This does not mean that seeking planning permission to extend or alter a listed building is completely out of the question; it can be done if approached to the right, respectful way.
Let’s take a look at the process of extending your listed building from design through to consent.
There are four statutory lists which the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (often referred to as Historic England) maintain and a listed building must be found on one of these (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have equivalent regulatory bodies).
For the record, it isn’t just buildings which can be placed on a list; any structure of significant cultural interest or historical significance can be put there.
For example, the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing is listed. Perhaps understandably, listing a building or structure is a long, arduous process and there are statutory requirements that the building or structure must meet. These include (list not exhaustive):
The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act of 1990 grants authority for a building to be listed in England and Wales; this covers the exterior and the interior of the building and also structures which fall within its curtilage providing they were built or erected prior to July 1948. In this Act, listed buildings fall into three groups:
The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act of 1990 states that a listed building, and specifically a Grade II listed property, cannot be altered, demolished, extended or modified without permission from the local planning authority or LPA.
Altering a listed building might just be the most complex thing that you attempt in your life so don’t feel bad if you need to draft in an expert from time to time.
Help with the Listed Building Consent process especially will most likely be necessary. The National Heritage List of England is a comprehensive online database of heritage properties and structures; it’s a great resource for some initial intelligence.
We aren’t going to pretend that it isn’t difficult, but it is possible. National Heritage List for England (NHLE, 2015), the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, 2018) and the London Plan (2016) all state that urban renewal of listed buildings should be considered and that the buildings should be put to “appropriate and viable use”.
To realise the urban renewal plans the extension, modification or alteration of Grade II listed buildings needs to happen, but they must be justified. Clear guidelines for the enhancement and preservation of historical assets are outlined in the above NPPF and in England the Local Planning Authority (LPA) has overall responsibility for managing of listed buildings. So you’ll need listed building consent from your LPA before you even think about how to altering or extend a Grade II listed property .
Paragraph 189 of the NPPF is clear in that any proposal to alter a listed building should include a description of the heritage asset and the contribution of its setting.
Remember: Understanding the degree of impact that the proposal will have on the building or structure’s historical or cultural significance is a must; this must be included in the proposal. The historical record should also be consulted to ensure that your proposal is accurate and you may need to access historical expertise to help you with this aspect.
Any planning application that you make to your LPA needs to include the following:
You should not underestimate the importance of a good Design and Access Statement (DAS); it is a critical document when it comes to obtaining planning permission for a Grade II listed property. Don’t hold back on the detail; detail is your friend when it comes to getting your proposal approved. It must include as much detail about the building as possible:
A schedule of works should also be included in your DAS as should the specification of the materials that you intend to use; these materials should be original materials. It’s likely that you’ll be using oaking/caulking instead of silicone, timber instead of plastic and lime mortar rather than cement. And make sure you pay particular attention to your damp proofing; injection can destroy the original fabric of the building which is a criminal offence. Make sure you stay clear of that!
It’s more palatable for LPAs for some elements of your building to be a little more modern, but these are generally limited to interiors and more specifically the bathroom and kitchen areas.
Again, this is critical if you want to successfully obtain planning permission.
Take windows as an example. If you put modern windows in, how easy would it be for them to be restored without impacting on the significance of the building?
The LPA will also want to see that you understand the significance of the building and the fact that it was likely around before you and will be around long after you’ve gone.
You could try to get a Certificate of Immunity in an effort to get around the strict planning regulations associated with altering a listed building; a Certificate of Immunity precludes the building from being listed and can be valid for up to five years.
When applying for a Certificate of Immunity, your application goes to Historic England. Historic England set out the requirements on their site: “a comprehensive history of the building with a detailed description of its historical and architectural interest that explains the evidence for, and interpretation of, its development and phasing.” You should include comprehensive supporting evidence too such as the following:
The Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings is used to assess the viability of your application. The Secretary of State has to be satisfied that the building is of no cultural or historic interest and only then can a certificate by granted. You should be aware however that even if you do get a Certificate of Immunity granted, planning permission may still be required.
LPAs will be weighing up your evidence and deciding whether the alterations that you are suggesting will allow the property to remain in keeping with its esteemed past. Bear in mind that your changes could be viewed positively or negatively in terms of enhancing the property or otherwise. This is why it’s a really good idea to obtain professional advice.
Damage to Grade II listed buildings should be avoided and if it has to happen there should be a clear rationale and justification; the LPA will consider this. The LPA’s primary concern is that the special significance of the building is maintained throughout any alteration, demolition or extension. This duty extends to the conservation area too with some Grade II listed properties.
LPAs are duty-bound, however, to take into account the positive contribution that developing a dilapidated listed building can have on the character and economic viability of local areas; in fact, this is a key consideration in the approval process so it is critical that accentuate the positives associated with your development.
Permission can be obtained to extend a Grade II listed property, but providing an adequate justification is an absolute must.
Here’s a recap of the key issues:
Fact: Design is something that should and needs to be considered on its individual merits or failings.
The UK has such a vast, diverse tapestry of properties to work with that taking this approach really is the only sensible option. The key consideration when you extend a Grade II listed property in understanding the historic form of the building so the value of the extension can be judged in the context of the building’s historical or cultural significance. Setting and context are crucial here as is the impact on other historical buildings or structures nearby.
Whether it is through natural processes or man-made interventions, one thing is for sure: our environment is a constantly evolving picture of change and in a way our historical properties really should mirror this.
The whole premise of protecting listed buildings is an honourable one in that it is society recognising the achievements and experiences of the past and acknowledging the loss that we would feel should said properties no longer be there. Listed buildings are subject to much tighter controls, but they are not preserved in a way that they can’t be touched, altered or made relevant for a new era; it’s just that any changes need to carefully considered and even more carefully executed.
The NPPF is crystal clear in that LPAs should absolutely not stifle progress and innovative new uses for listed buildings. High-quality design work can actually add to a building’s level of interest and cultural significance, not to mention its overall setting and contribution to the economic viability of the local area.
It’s clear that preservation and conservation have a huge part to play in this process, but we have to view things like adding a viable extension to such a property as the continuation of a conservation process. What better way of conserving a Grade II listed building than by adding an extension which drives new use and function from the building?
With careful, considerate design, and the right pitch to the LPA, there really is no reason why you can’t extend a Grade II listed property. Hopefully this article has allayed some of your fears and given you some pointers on where to start and how to go about it.
Our strong points include knowledge of all aspects of heritage design and planning permission for listed buildings applications especially in the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington & Chealse, Hammersmith & Fulham, Greenwich and Camden.
We are going to show you how you can get Listed Building Consent for extending your property. We’ll show you how to quickly develop strategies that can help you get the approval of your council. Plus, we will guide you through the process to ensure that your listed building is maintained to the highest standard. Call us on 0203 793 78 78 or send me an email now.