Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Locally listed buildings

One of the practices of some local planning authorities that has always irritated me is the compilation of local lists of buildings which the authority considers are of architectural or historic interest, or which they regard as ‘landmark’ buildings.

The reason for my irritation is that we have a well-established statutory system in this country for the formal listing of buildings of architectural or historic interest on a national basis. These are buildings which are objectively assessed by English Heritage as being of architectural or historic interest and which are then included by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on the statutory list under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Buildings which are not included in the statutory list are, by definition, not of listable quality, and if anyone thinks they are, there are procedures available for having them listed, if DCMS on the recommendation of English Heritage agrees that they should after all be included in the statutory list. An LPA can seek the ‘spot listing’ of a building by DCMS, and if it is considered to be of listable quality it will subsequently be added to the statutory list; if not, then it won’t.

Where unlisted buildings which in themselves are not of listable quality form a group which the LPA considers is worthy of protection, they have the power to designate a Conservation Area under the same Act. In many cases, conservation areas include both listed and unlisted buildings. The protection given to unlisted buildings in a conservation area is less than that afforded to buildings on the statutory list, but their demolition is at least prevented without prior consent.

Thus there is no justification for LPAs to compile their own entirely unofficial lists of ‘locally listed’ buildings. Such a list has no statutory effect and does not affect the legal status of that building in any way. Inclusion of a building in a ‘local list’ does not afford it any formal legal protection. At most, the fact that a building is included in a ‘local list’ of ‘landmark’ buildings, or however they are described, may be a material consideration in the determination by the LPA of any planning application relating to development affecting that building, but that is as far as it goes.

The full range of Permitted Development rights will continue to apply to a ‘locally listed’ building, unless it is in a conservation area – in which case the same slightly reduced PD rights as apply to other unlisted buildings in a conservation area will continue to apply to the ‘locally listed’ buildings within that area. If the LPA wishes to restrict or remove PD rights, they can do so only by making an Article 4 Direction applying to a specific building or buildings or to a specified area within the district.

Thus the existing protection of the statutory system of listed buildings and conservation areas is more than adequate to ensure the protection and preservation of buildings worthy of such protection, and the extra-statutory designation by LPAs of ‘locally listed’ buildings is entirely unnecessary, and should be discouraged.

Bearing in mind the lack of formal protection given to ‘locally listed’ buildings, a determined developer can afford to take a robust approach in these cases, and may well be able to so arrange matters as to entirely circumvent the purported protection which the LPA has sought to give to ‘locally listed’ buildings. If it is not in a conservation area, demolishing the building in question before putting forward a planning application for the redevelopment of the site may well be an attractive proposition. In fact, the ‘local listing’ of such a building might well encourage such an approach, in order to avoid the sort of arguments that might arise over its demolition and replacement if the building were to be left in place while the redevelopment proposals are under consideration.

So ‘local listing’ of buildings might in practice prove to be counter-productive from the LPA’s point a view. This is something which Bristol City Council may care to ponder, as the latest LPA to contemplate the possibility of ‘local listing’.



David Merson said...

What you say is quite correct but I have always thought it strange that the definition of Heritage Asset (firstly in Annex 2 to PPS5 and more recently in the Glossary to the NPPF) includes "designated heritage assest and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing)".
David Merson

Anonymous said...

Is your concern over demolition overstated in the sense that planning permission would be required or is all demolition permitted development?

Dr Anton Lang MRTPI said...

Hear, hear! There is way too much saved or protected just because it is old. So what, take a photo / do a survey and move on. We are restricted in our land and protect far too much. A maximum of five conservation areas per district and no more than 100 listed buildings - that would sort the wheat from the chaff. #Superplanner71 Dr Anton Lang MRTPI

Tom said...

As an LPA policy planner I agree with the points that we should only protect buildings/areas that meet the criteria for listed buildings and conservation areas. Many of our current historic buildings were built to replace older buildings which had outlived their usefulness. Its really a matter of ensuring theat what comes in its place is special.

In my experiance its not so much the planners who cause the problem as the conservation lobby who conflate 'old' with 'historically significant'. The public and Members have 'pet' buildings which they like or (more often) don't want to have the development which will replace the demolished building near them.

As for limiting the number of listed buildings and conservation areas I hope it wasn't a serious suggestion!

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

In answer to Anonymous (23 August) - Demolition in itself is permitted development under Part 31 (to the extent that it is not excluded altogether from the definition of development by ministerial direction). However, the scenario I had in mind was an application to redevelop a site which would involve the demolition of a locally listed building (not being in a conservation area) which is still standing at the time the application is made. A refusal is very likely in such circumstances . The obvious temptation is for the developer to demolish the locally listed building (perfectly lawfully), and then to apply for planning permission for the proposed new development.

HassanHassan said...

Dear Martin, I would just like to thank you for such an interesting blog.
Iam in a position of deliberation as to purchase a property that is not in a conservation area but is localy listed for its character. The house in my opinion is beautiful however it is not practical for modern living, therefore would need extending and modernising in a way that would compliment the building interns of look and materials. My fear ofcorse is purchasing the property and then being refused planning.
What would you suggest I do?

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

In answer to Hassan Hassan (17/02/14), locally listed buildings, whilst they do not have any formal protection, are nevertheless recognised by the NPPF as ‘heritage assets’. There is therefore likely to be some resistance on the part of the local planning authority to development that would involve the demolition of a locally listed building, and the refusal of planning permission might very well be upheld on appeal. My advice would be to obtain detailed expert advice on this issue before proceeding further.

heath45 said...

What a ridiculous comment from Anton Lang, or maybe it was just tongue-in-cheek. Obviously there are some local authority areas where you would struggle to find half a dozen decent buildings, and others where there are thousands. I share the frustration about introducing bureaucracy and shades of grey where there used to be clarity, but notwithstanding this blog, local lists and undesignated heritage assets do have official blessing via the NPPF and the English Heritage / Historic England quango and via those in local plans and neighbourhood plans. And we are supposed to protect the settings of locally listed buildings too... Despite my long experience in heritage matters, I remain nonplussed about the effectiveness of local lists, and neither the NPPF or Historic England guidance really satisfy my concerns. Wales seems to set far less store by them.

Martin H Goodall LARTPI said...

I happen to agree with Dr Lang and did not find his comment in the least bit ridiculous. However, under the NPPF, locally listed buildings are treated as ‘heritage assets’ and, whilst not enjoying any statutory protection, their proximity to the proposed development may be treated as a material consideration to the extent indicated by the NPPF.