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  • Paul, Compliance Manager

Listed Building Renovation – what you need to know

Updated: Jun 7



Conservation areas exist to protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place or area –

in other words, the buildings and their features that make it unique and distinctive.

What is a listed building?

A listed building is one that is included in the National Heritage List for England, which is a list of buildings, structures and places worthy of being conserved individually, whether the area they’re in is conserved or not.


If you own a listed building, whether a centuries old manor or a Victorian cottage, or any building in a conservation area, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do nothing to remove its period features or alter its character unacceptably.


Your local planning authority will tell you if your address is in a conservation area and the Historic England website (click on “Search the list”) will tell you if your home, or any other structure you own, is listed.


If you find you’re in a conservation area or your home is listed, then if you want building work done, you’ll want the help of an architect and a builder both of whom understand, not only your needs, but also the needs of your home or building.


How to choose an Architect for a listed building project?

Stage one is to get your project designed, which normally means an architect, though there are also architectural technicians and surveyors who do design work. Whoever you choose, you need

someone knowledgeable on heritage buildings, otherwise you may pay for a design that you’re then unable to use. For an architect you can try the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) website and click on “Find an Architect” and go through the range of options. There are over 3,700 architectural practices in Britain, so let the website narrow them down for you to local architects specialising in conserved or listed buildings). You’ll find a few who’ll be able to help you, hopefully a manageable number that you can phone round and choose the most suitable. We may easily know them. Of course, RIBA only list their members and there are other perfectly competent designers who may

have all the expertise you need. You could ask round any of your friends who have listed homes, you could try Google or phone us. Whatever route you take, make sure you have a competent designer you can work with. Your designer can talk through your ideas with you. They may be able to tell you immediately

some parts of your wish-list that wouldn’t be permitted, but also may have good alternative ways of

getting the result you want without breaching regulations.



Getting Planning Permission for a listed building

The first step is planning approval by your local authority planning department. This doesn’t need

very detailed drawings, but they should be accurate – you can’t double the size of the extension you want after the council has given you permission to build a smaller one, though you can make some changes.


Your local Conservation Officer works for the Planning Authority and will have inspected your plans

as part of the approval process, so once you have planning consent, you’ve also passed stage one of conservation consent.

Now your designer gets into the main part of their design work. The design for Building Regulations

approval needs to be detailed, not just in drawings but in structural calculations, efficiency of

energy use, security, etc, so the final design shows how everything will be put together and satisfy

all the functions demanded of modern housing by law. There may be conflict between Building

Control and the Conservation Officer, but all Conservation Officers know that the best chance a

building has of being well maintained, is when it’s a lived-in home, so a compromise can almost

always be found.


At what stage does a listed building builder get involved?

It’s when all these details have been settled that a listed building builder like us can work out what it

will cost to build. Whether we’re talking about renovation, alteration, extension or all three, it’s just

the same, only when we have the detail of what will be done and how it will be done can we say

what the work will cost. Even more so for listed buildings and conservation buildings than of any

other work. Will lath and plaster be required? Will it be lime plaster? Are there arched doorways and windows? Is there gauged brickwork? Is there any stonework? These are only a few of the things that vary, often depending on how much modernisation a particular building has had before it was listed.

Once your project is priced you can put the work out to competitive tender for pricing or

negotiate with a single contractor. Remember, you have your architect or designer to help you when

you’re looking at prices. That’s one reason for being careful in your choice of architect. Of course you want value for money, but you certainly don’t want your period home spoilt by slipshod working. Your experienced architect or designer will know which parts of the work will need extra time or more expensive materials to be done to a good heritage standard – and the areas where there’s no reason or excuse for any additional cost.


Why are Saunders Brothers renowned for being a listed building specialist?

There’s no doubt that Saunders Brothers will continue learning about listed building renovation and

extensions, because part of their charm is that every old building is different, but we have a wealth

of skills and knowledge that we love to use, and where we don’t have a particular skill in-house, it’s

almost certain that we know the right sub-contractors – some of them the best anywhere – to put

on your project.

Whether you’re renovating, altering or extending a listed or conserved building, we hope that these

notes, talking you through the process, have helped you to agree with us that out of respect for the

irreplaceable home you own, and in order to make your project run as smoothly as possible, your

best plan is to make full use of a knowledgeable, experienced architect or designer and an

experienced knowledgeable contractor with respect and love for unique old buildings. It’s that

respect and love that drives what we do at Saunders Brothers.

You may find our blogs ‘What makes a Listed Building’ and ‘Frequently asked questions by homeowners’ or ‘Choosing a builder top tips’ very useful to you as well as our dedicated ‘Homeowners’ page. If there's anything you'd like to know that's not covered here, please do contact one of our friendly team at mail@saundersbrothers.co.uk or call 01844 273783 as we'll only be too happy to help.

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