How to delist a listed cottage or building

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Listed buildings, whilst often attractive and brimming with character, may not always be seen as desirable purchases. They cause potential headaches for the new owners given the statutory limitations, and resultant additional costs, in carrying out improvements and alterations to the building. Listed status may affect the building’s land value and potentially also cause comparatively higher running costs and insurance premiums.

However, in order to avoid all this, could you successfully apply to remove a building’s listed status?

Why is my building listed?

Before you consider having your property removed from the list of ‘heritage buildings’, it is worth understanding why it might have been included in the first place. According to Historic England, the organisation responsible for publishing and maintaining the National Heritage List for England (NHLE), ‘a building is listed when it is of special architectural or historical interest, in the national context’.

There are estimated to be around half a million listed buildings in the UK, the majority of which were built between 1700 and 1940. To qualify for the list, the building must of special interest assessed upon either of the following criteria:

  • Architectural Interest – to be of special architectural interest a building must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship; special interest may also apply to nationally important examples of particular building types and techniques (e.g. buildings displaying technological innovation or virtuosity) and significant plan forms; and/or
  • Historic Interest – to be of special historic interest a building must illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural, or military history and/or have close historical associations with nationally important people. There should normally be some quality of interest in the physical fabric of the building itself to justify the statutory protection afforded by listing.

You can find out whether a property is listed and under what criteria by searching the NHLE.

Applying for delisting

Delisting a building is not an easy undertaking. Typically, only around 50% of applications are approved and involves a lengthy consultation and review process. However, if you feel that your building qualifies to be delisted, there are certain procedures you should follow.

The first step is to send your application for de-listing to Historic England. To support your case, you will need to provide evidence that proves the building does not meet the above criteria for listed buildings. This can include photographic evidence and surveys and you may need the services of a conservation specialist to present all the details for review. Historic England will then carry out an investigation and consultation with interested parties (including local authorities) before preparing a report to enable the Secretary of State to make the final decision.

A common reason for delisting is where the building has been destroyed and the potential for any repair or restoration has been entirely eliminated. The repairs and restoration may extend to fabrics used, so the property must be beyond any help before it can be considered for delisting (and associated planning permission granted for a new one to be put in its place). In any event, the cause of the damage will always be investigated.

It might also be possible to argue that the original listing was not warranted. However, any application for delisting will only be considered in the first 28 days following publication of the list. With this in mind, it is worth preparing your case before the publication date, as it can be a lengthy process.

Finally, you will find that there are certain circumstances under which a delisting application is unlikely to be considered. These include: where building works are shortly to be undertaken; where the building has had a notice of repairs served on it; and where the building is the subject of an appeal against refusal of consent.

Seek expert advice

Successfully delisting a building can give owners great advantages. However, the process can take around five months and incur significant expense. Therefore, it is important to obtain early expert legal and conservation advice and support to ensure costs and delays are minimised.