To some, owning a Listed Building is almost a status badge, an honour and a sure sign of owning an authentic character property.
To others, a Listing is an onerous restriction, resulting in a lack of freedom to do what you want, when you want and sure to cost a lot my into the bargain!
Listed Buildings are considered to be of national importance, architecturally and or historically and therefore, worthy of legislation to protect them for future generations. Within the planning system are three levels of listings; Grade II, Grade II* and Grade I. The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) categorises all the Listed Buildings of which over 90% have the lowest Grade II Listing. Grade I Listed buildings have the highest significance and locally we have 2 such buildings, Todmorden Unitarian Church and Todmorden Town Hall.
Most home owners with a Listed Building will find they have a Grade II Listing. Our local authority, Calderdale MBC, has a link under their planning portal which provides useful information about the listed features. Sometimes however, there will be just one single entry that covers a number of separate dwellings, for example a farmstead that has been divided into separate units or a row of terrace houses. As a guide, almost every building that was built before 1700 and most built between 1700 – 1840 will be listed. It is also possible to search the Heritage List using Historic England’s website: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/
I have often heard people panic about Listed Buildings and many people wrongly believe they are more trouble than they are worth. If a building has historic or architectural significance than surely it is in everyone’s interests to preserve and treasure this? Of course you are allowed to carry out repairs and make improvements but repairs or alterations need to reflect the fact that the building is listed, making use of appropriate materials, details and workmanship. The important thing to remember is to always apply for Listed Building Consent (LBC) and seek approval before committing to any work. Within Calderdale, it is FREE to apply for Listed Building Consent so there really is no excuse not to. Generally speaking, routine maintenance and like for like repairs will not need consent but it is so easy to check first, why take the risk? Carrying out unauthorised works to a Listed Building is actually a Criminal Offence which will lead to potential prosecutions and fines. Any unauthorised works are sure to be flagged up in the house sale process and will stop a sale going through – or at the very least cause lengthy delays whilst retrospective consent is sought.
Planning departments have specialists on hand to advise on what is allowed and what is not allowed and most, like Calderdale, have useful information on their websites. It is important to remember that Listed Buildings are protected both internally and externally so any removal or alteration of features such as doors, fireplaces, internal walls, works to the windows, etc would be likely to require listed building consent. In addition any out-buildings, boundary walls, railings etc are generally also protected by the listing. I have had experience of a sale held up and almost derailed, because Listed Building Consent was deemed necessary for decking in the garden.
Remember Listed Building Consent is needed in addition to Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval, (applying for these will incur charges) all three of which will be needed for many alterations and improvements.
Conservation Areas are also significant as any home within a designated conservation area, such as Heptonstall, will also be subject to restrictions, to safeguard the special character of the location. Again, in my mind, this can only be a good thing.
So is it worth it? In my opinion YES. Own a Listed Building and you own a little piece of history. It’s in everyone’s interests to value and protect that, even if it takes a little effort. If you like old, character homes you need to be willing to put up with their quirks and inconveniences. If you are not prepared for this, you probably ought to consider buying a modern or new build home.