Listed buildings are buildings of special architectural or historic interest that have been identified to be protected through legislation.
Listing is the statutory process by which buildings are added to the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest by Historic England (formerly English Heritage). Compiled under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the list includes a great variety of structures, from cathedrals to telephone boxes. Listing gives statutory protection to historic buildings and requires their special interest to be taken into account before any changes are made to them that would affect their character.
There are over 4600 entries on the lists for South Somerset, covering an estimated 5000 buildings and structures. It is estimated that 3.5% of dwellings in South Somerset are listed, a relatively high number reflecting the richness of the district's heritage.
How we approach the conservation and alterations of historic buildings, the principles that guide best practice have evolved through many national and international guidelines and agreements. Reference to some of these may be useful, particularly the British Standard BS 7913; The Principles of the Conservation of Historic Buildings and the international ICOMOS charters.
What does listing mean?
Listing is a celebration of special architectural or historic interest. It is not intended to mothball a building, preserving it as it appeared at the time of listing but it does require that special regard be taken over any works that may affect its historical significance. The long-term interests of a historic building are best served by keeping it in use, often - but not always - the use for which it was originally designed. Buildings may need to change and adapt, and listing is a way of flagging special interest through the planning process. Listing should be seen as the start of a process rather than an end in itself. In short, it is a dynamic not a static regime, which recognises that most historic buildings have already undergone changes during their lifespan. Extra care is needed to ensure that they are handed down to future generations in a state that respects their special interest.
Listed building consent is required for altering or extending the building in any way that affects its character or for demolishing any part of it. In practice most works to the exterior or interior of listed buildings will require consent.
Is my building listed?
If you want to find out if a building is listed it is easy to find information for yourself on the internet.
Both the national and Somerset lists of buildings of architectural or historic interest are available to search on-line.
Listed buildings in Somerset are included in the Somerset Historic Environment Record.
The national lists of all heritage assets including listed buildings can be accessed at the Historic England website.
The Heritage Gateway website provides access to many national records and images including the list for England.
How are buildings selected for listing?
Buildings considered for listing are assessed against national standards and criteria, contained in Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings. This sets out the only criteria on which a listing decision will be based.
In summary the main principles for selection are:
Age and rarity: The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to have historical importance.
Architectural interest: This may be represented through architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship, or examples of particular building types or techniques.
Historic interest: Buildings may display little visual quality but, through technological innovation or their form, they may illustrate particular aspects of the nation's social, economic, cultural or military history.
Close historical associations: These should be well-documented associations with nationally important people or events, and there should also be some quality or interest in the physical fabric of the building.
National interest: Not only are buildings of strong intrinsic architectural quality included, but also the most significant or distinctive local buildings that make a strong contribution to the national historical stock.
It is important to emphasize that when buildings are recommended for listing, no factors other than architectural or historic interest as set out above can be considered. For example, the state of repair of a building is not a relevant consideration unless it detracts from the architectural or historic interest so much that the building is no longer special. Similarly, economic and social considerations cannot be taken into account during the listing process but may be relevant subsequently when, through the planning system, a local planning authority is asked to grant permission, known as Listed Building Consent (LBC) to an owner who is proposing to make changes to a listed building that would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.
Applications for listing should be made to Historic England by completing the relevant form
De-listing listed buildings
A building can only be removed from the list if it no longer meets the statutory criteria. This may be because of new evidence about the special architectural or historic interest of the building, or a material change of circumstances (for example, fire damage that has affected the special interest of the building). No issues can be considered other than the special architectural and historic interest of the building.
Applications for de-listing will not generally be considered if the building is currently the subject of an application for listed building consent, or an appeal against refusal of consent, or if enforcement action by a local planning authority is in hand. This is because both listed building consent and enforcement appeal procedures give appellants the right to argue that a building is not of special interest and should be removed from the list. De-listing is not an alternative to seeking the relevant consent. See guidance on the Historic England website for more information. Applications for de-listing should be made to Historic England.
Care and repair and technical advice
There are a number of useful sources of information about the conservation of historic buildings, their care, repair and maintenance and about conservation of the historic environment more widely including:
Supporting your planning application
We have produced a guide to support your planning application. Our Validation Guide sets out what information you are likely to need for the type of application you are proposing.