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The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Property Clinic -

Con­tin­u­ing the se­ries in which our Clinic ex­perts pro­vide a guide to those thorny is­sues that can trip up the un­wary. This week, John Win­ter on liv­ing in a listed house We have just moved into an 18th-cen­tury cot­tage which is Grade II-listed. What does that mean? A listed build­ing is a struc­ture of spe­cial ar­chi­tec­tural or his­toric in­ter­est or which forms part of a sig­nif­i­cant group of build­ings, which has been in­cluded on the list ap­proved by the Sec­re­tary of State. The list is con­tin­u­ally be­ing added to and, at present, the le­gal frame­work for list­ing is un­der re­view. Leg­is­la­tion is be­fore par­lia­ment that will see list­ing be­ing han­dled by English Her­itage rather than the De­part­ment of Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport. So does list­ing make life dif­fi­cult for the home­owner? Not nec­es­sar­ily. Once a struc­ture has been listed, al­ter­ations re­quire Listed Build­ing Con­sent, which fol­lows the same pro­ce­dure as a nor­mal plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion, ex­cept that no fee is payable. “Like for like” re­pairs do not re­quire con­sent. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that “list­ing” is not in­tended to pro­hibit change, merely to en­sure that it is car­ried out thought­fully. It is not the in­ten­tion of the leg­is­la­tion to freeze old build­ings. Is there any fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit to be­ing listed? Changes to listed build­ings are ex­empt from VAT. Re­pairs are not. The sit­u­a­tion is the cause of much con­tro­versy, as it could be seen to en­cour­age own­ers to change their prop­er­ties. How­ever, as most listed build­ings need up­grad­ing (par­tic­u­larly in en­ergy terms) and as look­ing af­ter a listed build­ing is usu­ally ex­pen­sive, I think that listed build­ing own­ers should be thank­ful for any fi­nan­cial help that they can get.

Build­ings are listed Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II. Grade I build­ings are the most likely to at­tract grants. Th­ese are avail­able from English Her­itage and the rel­e­vant lo­cal author­ity, but funds are short and Grade II build­ings rarely qual­ify for fi­nan­cial help. But is there a down­side to get­ting a grant? Build­ing work is likely to bring the lo­cal author­ity’s con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer to see the work. This can be good for the owner, as most con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers know a lot about how to look af­ter an old build­ing. But the con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer is likely to re­quire stan­dards of re­pair that may be ex­pen­sive. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers are fright­ened of change, so if you wish to make sen­si­ble al­ter­ations, you may find your­self thwarted. For­tu­nately, you can ap­peal against an un­rea­son­able de­ci­sion as in an or­di­nary ap­pli­ca­tion.

John Win­ter runs his own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice.

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