14 February 2023

Get your listed home renovations done correctly with listing building consent

By Abode Insurance
Consent for works on a listed home

When a property is listed, it’s considered of special architectural or historic interest. As the owner of a listed home, you have a legal duty to conserve your property and protect the unique features, characterful quirks and traditional materials that make it special. So, what happens when it’s time for renovations? You’ll need to apply for listed building consent.

Internal renovations require listed building consent too

Listed building consent for work on listed properties

Listed building consent is permission from your local authority to carry out any demolition, alteration or works that could affect your listed home’s character as a building of national significance.

Separate to planning permission, listed building consent is a legal requirement that ensures a listed property is preserved for future generations. If you carry out works without the right consents, not only do you risk damaging the property, but you could be forced to reverse the changes or face legal action. That’s why understanding how listed building consent works, as well as how and when to apply for it, is a crucial part of owning a listed property.


Generally, the majority of renovation works will need listed building consent, and it’s only small ‘like-for-like’ works such as replacing the odd missing roof tile that are unlikely to need formal consent. But if you plan any works that will alter the appearance of a listed property, for example changing the colour of the external walls, adding an extension, knocking down walls, or even replacing windows and doors – you will need listed building consent. This applies to renovations to any outbuildings, walls or structures in your gardens too.

And don’t forget – you’ll still need to apply for planning permission for any works that would traditionally require it, like adding an extension or making structural alterations.

Do I need listed building consent for internal alterations?

When you want to make changes inside your listed home, you will still need listed building consent. Any sort of refurbishment or interior design projects such as removing a wall or creating a new doorway are considered a ‘material change’ that could affect the property’s character, and your proposals will need to be reviewed and approved by the Conservation Officer at your local authority.

While there’s no exact definition of a ‘material change’, it’s widely considered to be anything that changes the fabric of a property and risks compromising its historic significance. This could be something as simple as replacing lime mortar with cement, laying a concrete floor to replace old timbers, or replastering using gypsum rather than lime – all examples of materials that not only undermine the historic character of your home, but also risk creating more problems, such as damp.

If you’re unsure whether your internal renovations need listed building consent, your best option is to contact your Conservation Officer at your local authority for advice. Even if you ultimately don’t need consent, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The listed building consent application process

How to apply for listed building consent is straightforward, as long as you have the right information to hand to support your application. The more detail you can provide, the better.

You can access the application forms via your local authority and they may also offer a pre-application advice service, which can be helpful when it comes to submitting an application that’s more likely to be approved.

Before you start the forms, you will need to prepare some key information, including details of the grading of your listed building, whether you own, lease or rent the building, and all the information regarding your proposed works – from materials and finishes to the parts of the property which will be affected.

The application process is then split into several parts. You will need to provide a detailed:

  • Site plan
  • Location map
  • Design and Access Statement (DAS)
  • Heritage assessment

Your site plan and location map must include your proposed plans, as well as existing plans and elevations, and are best prepared by an architect to ensure accuracy.

Your DAS allows your local planning authority and other stakeholders to understand why you are proposing the works in the historic context of your listed home. It acts as a statement of historical information on your property, and should include details of all the important architectural and historical features that explain its listed status.

Try to include as much as you can find out about the history and development of your home, as well as details about key features past and present. You will need to include details of the materials you intend to use for your renovations, for instance lime mortar or thatch type. Any comparisons that you can make with similar buildings in the area could work in your favour too, for example if you can show that similar listed buildings have features of a similar style to your proposed alterations.

At the end of the day, read in conjunction with your proposed works, your DAS should show that you understand the historical importance of your listed home and are making proposals that reflect and complement it, rather than compromise it.

To this end, the Heritage Impact Assessment can make up part of the statement – providing enough information so your local planning and conservation department can understand the impact of your proposal on your heritage home.

How long does listed building consent take to get?

The national planning portal advises that listed building consent should be granted within eight weeks from the moment your local planning department validates your application. This timeframe includes the 21-day consultation process, when your neighbours and other interested parties can comment on the proposal.

What can happen when buying a house without listed building consent?

If changes have been made to a listed house without consent, the local authority can serve an enforcement notice to have the unauthorised changes removed or remedied. It doesn’t matter when the work was done – if you own the house, it’s your responsibility to make good, even if you didn’t make the changes in the first place.

Failure to comply with a Listed Building Enforcement Notice could escalate to court, with the risk of an unlimited fine or even a prison sentence. So, when you’re buying a listed home, you need to make sure all the changes have been made with the proper consents in place and assess your potential liability if they haven’t.

This could very much depend on the type of unauthorised changes that have been made. For example, something you might be looking to improve anyway, such as poorly fitting windows or doors, could be easy to resolve. But a large alteration such as an extension, conservatory, or even a swimming pool could be a much riskier proposition – leaving you liable for a property you may not be able to sell again unless you remedy the errors.

If this is the case, the only realistic option is for you and the vendor to apply for retrospective listed building consent, so you can continue with the property purchase in the event that it’s granted.

What is retrospective listed building consent?

Retrospective listed building consent is when you are granted permission for alterations after they have already taken place. This can make it much easier to buy a listed home where unauthorised changes have been made by a previous owner, and it can sometimes serve as a saving grace in the event you have made a mistake yourself when renovating your own listed home. The key is to talk to your local Conservation Officer and ask for their advice to see what can be done to make unauthorised changes legal.

The application process for retrospective listed building consent follows the same process as a full listed building consent application. In the case of retrospective consent, your plans and proposals may need to explain fully any proposed solutions and compromises that you have perhaps agreed with your Conservation Officer.

How likely you are to have retrospective consent granted will depend on the scale and nature of the unauthorised alteration. Something that has significantly altered the historical significance of a listed home is unlikely to be solved by retrospective consent, but smaller unauthorised changes might well be waved through without too many difficulties.

What is listed building consent indemnity insurance?

Listed building consent indemnity insurance offers a safety net when you buy a listed home, in the event any unauthorised alterations by previous owners are discovered in future. You can take out this form of cover on the basis that both your solicitor and surveyor have fully investigated all known alterations and their consents before you buy.

However, sometimes unauthorised changes may not come to light until after you’ve moved in – and that’s where an indemnity policy is invaluable. With this type of insurance, you’re covered for the costs of reversing or fixing any unauthorised alterations – giving you peace of mind that you can buy your dream listed home without the risk of having to pay to fix the mistakes of a previous owner.

At Abode, we understand that it’s a privilege and a joy to own and live in a listed building – but we understand how complex the lack of listed building consent can become. We’re here to help. Simply get in touch to find out more about listed building consent indemnity insurance, or for advice and guidance on looking after your listed home.

You can find out more about insurance for listed buildings here.