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What Listing Means: A Guide for Owners and Occupiers


Frequently Asked Questions


This Guide is intended to set out what listing means and how it may affect you



The list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest is a register, compiled by English Heritage and approved by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport recording the best of British buildings. It comprises a wide variety of structures, from castles and cathedrals down to milestones and village pumps. Not all the structures are what we may consider to be 'beautiful'. Some are included purely for their historical value. This list adds up to a heritage register and covers the entire country.

Why are buildings listed?

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Secretary of State has a statutory duty to list buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Since November 2009 responsibility for compiling the list has rested with English Heritage, with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport responsible for approving the list. In choosing buildings for listing, other factors such as the cost of maintaining the building, unsuitability to modern needs and their current state of repair, are not considered (unless this has harmed the architectural interest). The list is a register which identifies those buildings that are considered of national interest.

How are buildings selected for listing?

Most buildings have been selected in the course of the National re-survey of listed buildings. Every town in England has been visited by fieldworkers from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (previously the Department of the Environment) and the best buildings have been selected against a set of national criteria. The results of this survey, edited into lists, are available at the Council Offices.

Sometimes it is necessary to list individual buildings which may have been overlooked in the re-survey. These buildings can be 'spot-listed'. The effect of this is the same and the list will again be available for inspection at the Council Offices. Sometimes spot listing is preceded by a Building Preservation Notice which is made by the local Council and which invites English Heritage to consider the property for listing immediately.

The Criteria Used

All properties considered for listing are judged according to a set of national standards. Very broadly, properties within the following categories will be listed:-

  • All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition
  • Most buildings of 1700 to 1840 although selection is necessary
  • Between 1840 and 1914 only buildings of definite quality and character and the selection is designed to include the major works of principal architects.
  • Between 1914 and 1939, selected buildings of high quality or historic interest
  • A few outstanding buildings erected after 1939.

In choosing buildings, particular attention is paid to:

  • Special value within certain types, either for architectural or planning reasons or as illustrating social and economic history (e.g. industrial buildings, railway stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, town halls, markets, exchanges, almshouses, prisons, lock-ups, mills).
  • Technological innovation or virtuosity (e.g. cast-iron, prefabrication, or the early use of concrete).
  • Association with well-known characters or events
  • Group value, especially as examples of town planning (e.g. squares, terraces or model villages).

The buildings are classified into grades to show their relevant importance. These are as follows:

Grade I - Buildings of exceptional interest (around 2% of all listed buildings)

Grade II* - Particularly important, of more than special interest (around 4%)

Grade II - Buildings of special interest, which warrant every effort being made to preserve them

What does the Listing mean?

The lists are a register, but they do mean that if you wish to demolish, alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character, then listed building consent must be obtained from the local authority. 'Listing' also covers both the exterior and interior of a property. Listed Building Consent will be in addition to any planning permission or building regulation approval that may be needed, although for most owners, planning and listed building applications can be considered together (and listed building consent does not require a fee).

The fact that a building is listed, does not necessarily mean that it must be preserved intact for all time; but it does mean that the case for its preservation can be considered quite separately from the merits of any development proposals. The Council can advise you on this. It is a criminal offence to demolish, alter or extend a listed building without consent and the penalties can be heavy.

Can Grant assistance be made?

It is possible in certain circumstances to get grant assistance for repair works. Grants for the repair of buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest, which usually means Grade I and some Grade II* may be available from English Heritage, as long as the application is made before the work commences. Grants may also be made to non-outstanding buildings in Conservation Areas.

Further information on grant assistance from central government can be obtained from:

English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
138 - 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

Local authorities sometimes have an amount of money available for works to buildings of architectural or historic interest. It is advisable to contact your local authority as to whether grant is available

Some buildings enjoy a more favourable position as regards to Value Added Tax, than an unlisted building. VAT zero rating is available for 'approved alterations', (that is, alterations which both require and obtain listed building consent from the appropriate planning authority), to listed buildings which are dwellings or are being used for qualifying residential purposes, or for the non-business activities of a charity. It also applies to buildings that are being converted for qualifying residential or non-business charity use.

However, alterations to other listed buildings, works of repair or maintenance and alterations not requiring listed building consent, are standard rated, as is the construction of a new building within the curtilage of a listed building (unless the new building is itself designed as a dwelling or is to be used for a qualifying purpose. The relief depends on using a VAT registered builder, there is no system of refund for VAT paid on materials or goods you purchase; whether to do it yourself or to be used by a labour only sub-contractor. A leaflet (No. 708 August 1998 - Buildings and Construction) is available from your local Customs and Excise Office.

Can I be made to maintain my listed building?

The local planning authority can make an owner of a listed building maintain their listed building, but this is generally only in extreme circumstances. A listed building is part of our heritage and most owners are both pleased and proud to maintain their properties. In some cases, repairs and alterations may need to be carried out with materials that are in keeping with the original building and this may involve additional cost. Local authorities do have the power to serve an Urgent Works Notice or a Repairs Notice on an owner if a listed building becomes dilapidated, but these notices are only used as a last resort.

In general there are three steps that can be taken if your property is falling badly into disrepair:

  • the Council will encourage you to maintain it and staff can offer you helpful practical and technical advice;
  • if the property still remains neglected, the council may serve an urgent repair works notice or a full repairs notice;
  • if there is failure to comply with the notice, then the Council can take action to compulsorily acquire the property.

In the case of unoccupied listed buildings, the Council can take another course. They can if they wish, carry out work themselves to make a building wind and weatherproof. They can then recover the costs themselves from the owner, but there is a right against recovery to the Department of the Environment and one of the grounds that can be cited is the financial hardship that the bill will cause.

How far does the listing extend?

Buildings are listed in their entirety: there is no such thing as just a listed facade or interior. Some parts of a listed building may however be more important than others and this could be significant if you are considering applying for listed building consent for partial demolition or alteration. The list description is intended primarily for identification purposes. It does not provide a comprehensive or exclusive record of all the features of importance. In addition, any object or structure fixed to a listed building or included within the curtilage of the building, which although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1st July 1948, is included in the listing. Again the local Council should be able to help with any problems of identification or interpretation in a particular case.

Is it possible to appeal against the listing?

There is no statutory right of appeal, but if you consider the property not to possess special architectural or historic interest and you are considering making such an appeal, a guidance note is available from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport at the address below:-

Department of Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street

There are no forms to fill in and no complex procedure, but remember that it is the building's special architectural or historic interest that concerns the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. They do not take into account any other factors.


Most owners are pleased that their properties have been listed and recognised as part of our heritage. In many areas, the cachet of listing, coupled with appropriate and approved alterations may also add to the value of residential property. It is however, recognised that there are others who may be dubious or hostile to listing.

This page has been designed to answer only general queries. If you require further information please contact us:

The contact information below may be used to enquire about listed buildings in Tameside. Please note that we are unable to answer enquiries or provide advice on listed buildings outside of Tameside.

Contact Information
Contact by Post

Planning Policy
Tameside MBC
PO Box 304
Ashton Under Lyne