Planning an Alteration to your Listed Building
Owners of most listed buildings at some time consider making alterations and improvements to the existing structure. Sometimes, these alterations are as a result of the foresight of a new owner being able to see the potential of an existing building. Sometimes alterations are simply required to make the property more modern and habitable. However, close regard to the listed building status must be observed at all times as well as recognising the various risks involved.
Probably the greatest risk of infringement of listed building legislation comes from simple routine maintenance, in many cases owners do not realise that they have to obtain permission for certain works to be carried out, after all most owners are not fully conversant with the law. In the cases of works on a larger nature, it can be expected that any bona fida contractor, used to heritage and conservation work should know what can and cannot be done without referral. How odd it seems that even a modest alteration to a listed building, perhaps to comply with health & safety legislation can be construed as being a criminal act.
In may seem laborious but any person owning a listed building should seek permission to perform any alteration to the property. Often when you present your plan in front of your local authority, an advantage can be obtained by the comprehensiveness of your intentions. Alterations that are presented as part of an overall programme of care for the property should receive a favourable response.
By taking this approach you are helping to relieve the local conservation officer of much work in keeping a check on the up keep of the building himself. It has been shown in the past that applications submitted using language that is sympathetic to the building is likely to also receive a more favourable response. Terms like demolish are never received well by conservationists as they indicate total destruction of an existing structure. Terms like take down sound more respectful to a building and application couched in caring terminology can sometimes win through even if some of the alterations are quite contentious.
Once your local authority has revived your application, they will check the documents, notices and ensure payment has been received, then they will notify you of the date your application become valid, During this period they are responsible for liasing with English Heritage, local conservation groups and other local authorities. It is a good idea to stay in contact with the planning dept, no news, doesn’t always mean good news when it comes to these matters and it is essential to keep open a good line of communication.
The planning authority is obliged to give you a decision either way within 8 weeks unless of course all parties agree to an extension. English Heritage is allowed 28 days to comment on any Grade 1 or Grade2* building that is not located in London and thus you may find that in almost all cases, there are delays.
As mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, there are penalties, often severe for altering listed buildings without permission. Fines of up to £20,000 and not more than 3 months imprisonment are imposed upon summary conviction, but on indictment, the fine can be unlimited and a sentence of up to 12 months imprisonment can be passed. In most cases, the law views the seriousness of the offence in conjunction with how much financial gain the owner was making following the alterations or demolition. As well as a hefty fine, you may be ordered to reinstate the property, and this can prove very costly indeed.
For a Listed Building Insurance contact Assetsure.