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’.
© MARTIN H GOODALL