A blog about planning, planning law and planning policy


The information on this blog is not intended to be advice, legal or otherwise. You should not rely on it and I do not accept liability in connection with it. If you do have a planning law question on which you would like advice, seek legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor. Specific advice should be sought for specific problems.

Reforming listed building control

A listed building in Worthing

The Department for Culture Media and Sport is consulting on changes to listed building control aimed at better use of local government resources. The problem is that there are not enough conservation officers for the volume of work. So the aim is to reduce the number of applications. There are two main options, a permitted development approach and a deemed permission option following notification to the planning authority to give them the opportunity to require a full a application.  My personal view has been for some time that listed building control is too heavy-handed. Do we really need so many listed buildings? Is it right to burden landowners with the duty of maintaining heritage buildings?  Are they really all heritage buildings?

The real problem of administering listed building control however lies not in the number of officers available but in the fundamental requirement for listed building consent (LBC). It is needed for works which affect the historic or architectural character of the listed building and that is a judgment call. So precautionary applications are made. The LPA might take a different view of effect in few years time so it makes sense to put the matter beyond doubt.

The judgment call aspect is going to cause problems with the otherwise laudable proposal to give permitted development rights in some cases.  How do we decide what is minor or insignificant enough not to require LBC? A minor operation to a quiet corner among many in a large listed building is likely to be more significant for the character of a smaller building with just one or two such corners . There is the judgment call again. And size is of course not everything. The buildings and the features may have different characters – for example one may be historic but architecturally undistinguished, and another architecturally significant but with no historic relevance.  Which suggests to me that the prior notification route is preferable.

Or we could reduce the number of listed buildings.

1 comment to Reforming listed building control

  • Too right – there are way too many listed buildings and conservation areas. Most conservation areas are grotty and old and in need of modernising, not preserving. A maximum of 100 listed buildings per local authority and maximum 5 conservation areas too – that would sort the wheat from the chaff and leave the quality.

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