There are c.600,000 Listed Buildings in England, from grand country houses to humble cottages. Such buildings are deemed to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest, and building works are strictly controlled via the ‘Listed Building consent’ (LBC) regime, administered by local Councils.
The system has proved challenging however, for local authorities and owners of Listed Buildings alike. Councils face the burden of some 30,000 LBC applications each year (not to mention numerous enquiries from homeowners unsure what does, and does not, require consent), whilst the number of conservation officers working in local authorities has significantly reduced in recent years.
Owners have also struggled to interpret complex and sometimes ambiguous legislation. For example, when does a repair (which would not normally require consent) become an alteration (which usually does)? Would LBC be required if a homeowner wished to re-surface a driveway, or fit a bathroom suite?
In recognition of these practical difficulties a group called the ‘Historic Environment Forum’ published a paper for consultation this summer outlining a series of suggested reforms to the current system, these include:
Overall, I welcome the reforms suggested by the consultation, as a means of encouraging people to invest in and protect our Listed Buildings, and engage constructively with local authorities, rather than, as is sometimes the case currently, choosing not to invest in such buildings, or liaise openly with the authorities, for fear of red tape.
Jon Millhouse is a Chartered Town Planner and Director of Planning Design Practice, Derby.
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