Ask the Architect – Can I make alterations to my listed property?

man in white shirt with crossed arms stood next to wall

“Can I get into trouble by making improvements to my Listed Property?”

RIBA Conservation Architect Phil Easton deliberates.

I discussed, in a previous ‘Ask an Architect’ article about Listed Buildings, that it is a criminal offence to demolish all or part of a Listed Building or to remove or damage historic fabric without consent.

In October of 2018 a property owner was fined £82,000 for making unauthorised alterations to a Grade II Listed Building including ripping out original features, fireplace, walls, floors and beams.

It does not matter whether or not you believe the work you are carrying out to a Listed Building is minor or not, or that its essential to stop the building falling down or being broken into, you must take advice from a professional first.

before photo of a dilapidated house with people looking

Even where a building might be at risk, a telephone call to the local authority Conservation Officer would at least give you some guidance so that you can avoid potential prosecution for carrying out unlawful works.

One of our clients was faced with a Listed Building in the New Forest in a dangerous condition and they replaced timber beams with steel beams (without consulting WDA). Although they were well intentioned and it was in the long-term interest to the survival of the Listed Building, they nevertheless ended up in Court charged with a criminal offence.

before photo of house with rotting timber windows

Ignorance of the law is no defence. You cannot claim that you did not know that you should not damage a Listed Building, nor can you claim that what you were doing was in the interest of the Listed Building. You have to do it by the book. This means that you should take advice from a historic building professional, Architects such as ourselves or at the very least contact your local authority Conservation Office. Further guidance can be sought from Historic England.

Our team at WDA includes a Conservation Architect alongside numerous staff members who are well experienced in works to historic buildings. If any work need a Listed Building Application then this is something that Western Design Architects can do for you utilising our in house expertise and considerable knowledge.

before photo of render falling down on side of white house with thatched roof
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