Listed building advice please.

(22 Posts)
CheeryCherry Thu 27-Feb-14 08:10:12

We are considering buying a grade 2 listed house but have a few concerns. Rang the local planning office who just said to look at the portal online. This didn't help.
I just want to know basic (probably stupid) questions answering...
Can you put shelving up without asking?
Can you put climbing plants on the outside of the house?
Can you replace the current tiled (not original) kitchen floor with other tiles and underfloor heating?
Just a bit worried about energy bills as there is no energy rating survey on it.
Thanks in advance.

Jackthebodiless Thu 27-Feb-14 08:33:03

You can do all the above, op, as long as you don't change the external appearance, eg change colour of front door, install UPvc windows etc.

We've been in a listed building for over 20 years and it's been no hassle at all.

wonkylegs Thu 27-Feb-14 09:26:53

English Heritage explains listed building constraints here
They also have practical advice pages here

There is also an article about living in a listed building here

Hope that gives you a better idea

GrendelsMum Thu 27-Feb-14 09:29:13

Jack isn't quite right when she says that the only thing you need to worry about is changing the external appearance. It's a very common mistake, though, and a lot of people (including builders and estate agents) will repeat it.

If you live in a listed building, you can't make any changes that will alter the historic fabric of the building without first getting Listed Building Consent. That means that you can't alter the historic fabric inside as well as outside.

Most obviously, you can't knock down an original wall without LPC. You also can't make holes in the ceilings for recessed light fittings, put new windows in existing walls, change the windows without LPC, etc etc.

I can't imagine that putting shelves up would be a problem, and if the tiles are modern, then that wouldn't be an issue either. However, it's always worth being prepared for surprises, and telling your builders to be extremely careful when taking things out - you might find an original floor under the modern tiles. We've found the original Tudor wall, complete with wattle and daub, behind some 60s fitted wardrobes, for example. Luckily our restoration builder was working on the house that day and so recognised immediately what they'd found and stopped anyone attempting to knock through!

You can make repairs, but not changes - what is a repair and what is a change can be a tricky subject, and the easiest thing to do is to phone up the Conservation Officers and outline the specific work you want to do. I suspect that the COs will be more flexible about calling something a 'repair' if they are happy with your general approach to the building.

You can put climbing plants up the outside of the building, but you should be very careful about causing damp issues.

I would say that living in a listed building is a very considerable added hassle and expense, although I'm aware that not everyone finds this (lucky bastards!). Ours is a major restoration project rather than buying a finished house, which may be the problem, but we're having to put in for repeated LBCs, which is hard work and time consuming. We also have to use specialist, more expensive tradespeople for every job, and buy much more expensive materials. For example, I can't go and buy Dulux paint to repaint our bedroom this week - it needs to be paint suitable for lime plaster. Really, it is like being on one of these TV programmes!

There are also additional issues around things that would normally be passed - believe it or not, we've needed Planning Permission to put up a small greenhouse, which included a visit from the local Parish Council.

I hope this helps (it's rather a spiel!) - if you have specific questions or want to PM me the sales details of the house, please do.

GrendelsMum Thu 27-Feb-14 09:29:53

Cross posted!

CheeryCherry Thu 27-Feb-14 09:42:56

Thanks all, that is very helpful. I think the only changes we would want to do over time would be the climbing plants (the front of the house is a bit minimal and unsymmetrical) and the kitchen tiles.
GrendelsMum how do you know what the plaster is made from? I would have just merrily bought Dulux Once and cracked on with it! I have noticed the downstairs exposed stone walls have been painted white (I wonder why?) - I would prefer them natural so would want to get all that off - if it is even possible. I would also want to repaint or remove the paint on the wood floor in the attic room, but I can't imagine that would be a problem.
There are no ceiling lights in the house but that is not a problem for me.

cathyandclaire Thu 27-Feb-14 09:52:49

We have 2* listed house and have had very few problems with renovations. They don't want you to tear out original fireplaces/staircases/coving etc but that's what made us fall in with the house anyway.
Painting/flooring (with the exception of original flags and tiles) we haven't had permission for. We have added/knocked down walls, added bathrooms, converted the cellar with no problems at all (with LBConsent ), the listed building people just like you to ask and listen to advice. If you get permission it's all VAT free atm too!

We had painted/plastered stone vaulted ceilings sandblasted. They look amazing but it was a HIDEOUS mess. Not sure I could cope with it again!
All the rest of your plans are straightforward I think.

Our house is Georgian and we just use Dulux or naice Farrow and Ball.

If I bought another house I'd be totally happy getting a listed building.
Good luck!

Seeline Thu 27-Feb-14 09:55:40

Grendels Mum has given you a very detailed reply, and as a former Planning Officer I would agree with what she has said smile
Definitely internal alterations can require LBC, not just changes to teh exterior.
The fact that the property is Listed will also restrict what can be done without the need for planning permission (two separate controls). As she says, you will probably need permission for any extensions, as well as outbuildings, sheds etc.
I would advise you to speak to the Conservation Officer at the Council to discuss any works, before commencing. As each LB is so different it is hard for websites etc to give precise details of what can be done. Breaking the rules can lead to hefty fines.

CheeryCherry Thu 27-Feb-14 09:56:31

cathyandclaire I have looked into sandblasting... don't think I could cope as there is a wall in the kitchen and a wall in the lounge that would need doing. The fall out would be too enormous!
Thanks.

ohblank Thu 27-Feb-14 09:56:33

Hello, we have newly moved into a listed building and met with the conservation officer a few weeks ago. The things that surprised me were that it is the interior as well as the exterior that is listed and also that listing includes the grounds. We were told that, technically, we would need permission to put a children's playhouse in the garden, even through it is a temporary-ish structure.

The woman we met said we could change kitchens / bathrooms / repaint / put up shelves without consent but just about anything else would need it as they want the work recording. In our case, we want to remove some fake wood panelling and change a 1970's fireplace - both things we would get permission for without question, but even though they are not part of the original fabric of the building, LBC is required.

ohblank Thu 27-Feb-14 09:59:29

Oh and buildings insurance is much more expensive as the rebuild cost for a listed building is higher. I think we had to request a rebuild valuation as part of our buildings survey.

MoreBeta Thu 27-Feb-14 10:03:10

I live in a Grade II listed building and to be honest it depends a lot on your local Conservation Officer who frankly are a law unto themselves.

My conservation officer ordered me to put in brushed steel plug sockets to replace white plastic - even though everyone else has them round here. I don't mind doing that but it was just so arbitrary. He ignored all the other plastic drain pipes on other houses but told me if I took my plastic pipes I had to replace with cast iron or cast aluminium. The modern Velux in teh roof that cant be seen has to be repalced by a conservation grade velux but only if I take it out. I can leave it in and he cant order me to remove it.

the boiler flue I fitte dthey can do anything about as it is a modern condensing boiler even though it is quiet out of keeping with teh property although teh slate roof it sticks through had to have Welsh slate tiles - not chinese.

He ordered me to use lime hair plaster to refill where I had channelled out for wiring even though some walls have been filled in the past with ordinary brown plaster. He ordered no sanding of floors even though some floors had been sanded by previous occupants and those that weren't were covered in hardboard and heavily damaged.

I asked if I had to take up the concrete floor in basement that had been illegally installed. He said no but gave strict instructions not to tank our the basement or put any kind of paint on except lime distemper. There is plastic membrane sticking up round the edges of the concrete for goodness sake.

He ignored down existing down lighter spotlights but told me not to touch the hallway floor which is brown earthenware tiles some of which are from the 1970s mixed with older earthenware tiles even though it was listed in 1953. The other houses in my area all have large York stone slabs or Regency black and white ceramic tiles. He wouldn't let me replace my brown tiles with exact replica tiles handmade to Regency patterns at the Jackfield tile museum in Shropshire.

He ignores satellite dishes on the fronts of houses but insists on certain types of door knocker.

What Grade II means is inconsistent between Conservation Officers.

What people do is just do things round here without telling the Conservation Officer. There is an architect who also seems to get permission to build modern extensions on the Regency houses round here that are frankly an outrage but he is quiet influential and the council seem to let him do projects others cant get through.

soapnuts Thu 27-Feb-14 10:05:02

The paint thing really does depend on how much work has already been done - most lime plaster walls will be long gone by now so if it's modern plaster it's not a problem to use normal paint (the plaster itself can cause damp problems but that's another issue!). we've got two grade 2 listed houses and we've done quite a bit to both but we've never needed to get LBC (we have checked!) so there is a huge difference between houses.

MoreBeta Thu 27-Feb-14 10:06:34

I apologise for dreadful typos in that last post. I have 3 builders drilling, sawing and hammering about 3 m away from my ears.

GrendelsMum Thu 27-Feb-14 10:37:10

smile MoreBeta and the builders

Yes, LPC is very dependent on your Conservation Officer, and when someone leaves or retires, you never know who's coming in to replace them. I think ours are fussier than most, but certainly not the worst!

We have a lot of the historic plaster left, hence the no Dulux rule. The previous owner used the wrong paints inside and out and its caused a right nuisance - paint bubbling up off the plaster, bad damp problems downstairs, etc etc. With a lot of time and expense we're well on the way to having that sorted.

I should probably also say we are spending an absolute fortune - partly to fix all the problems caused by the previous owners as well as to bring it up to modern standards.

MoreBeta Thu 27-Feb-14 10:46:06

Yes we are spending an arm and a leg too. Putting stuff right that previous owners did. A small Georgian replica window costs £1000 for example. It cost £3000 to refurbish the rest of the windows so they would actually open instead of being jammed shut. The list of expenses goes on and on and on.

To be honest I think the Conservation Officer takes advantage of people who buy a house and are foolish enough to ask permission.

A lot of people have told us to just ignore the Conservation Officer and just get on without asking because he is just completely over the top. He admitted in an email that he had ordered me to use a certain type of plug socket and light switch finish because he just 'likes that sort of fitting' even though as I pointed out the Georgians did not have electric!!!

As I said other people just do stuff without asking and as can be seen in my house a lot of it was really wrong but the Conservation Officer has refused to be sensible and work with people.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 27-Feb-14 10:48:34

I am shock at him telling you what sort of plug sockets to use.
Surely the standard white plastic ones are more honest, anyway.
I have all this yet to come - hope my Conservation Officer isn't like that. (You don't happen to know anything about the Ryedale ones by any chance, Beta?)

MoreBeta Thu 27-Feb-14 11:04:32

Tunip - no but I do know Ryedale. grin

My advice is if you are having a lot of work done - get a local architect to put the application in for you. They often know the ropes and the Conservation Officers don't try it on so much. Frankly ours just tries to get away with stuff and push the boundary almost up to Grade I standard. He has a Masters degree in Conservation from a local 'poly' university and worked on canal preservation for a while so he thinks he knows stuff. Frankly he lives in a modern 2 bed flat and knows nothing about living in listed buildings at all.

I have lived in and looked after listed buildings nearly all my life and I am a member of SPAB and hence know a fair bit. I was putting lime wash on walls and replacing pan tiles on oak timber framed barns in my school holidays 35 years ago long before he appeared on the scene. He backed off once I made it clear I wasn't going to be bullied and knew a lot about the subject.

He is just a petty bureacrat who over steps the mark because he can.

He also has a list of favoured suppliers he likes to push on people as well - which I find quite dubious and hence I ignored.

GrendelsMum Thu 27-Feb-14 11:09:23

He sounds like a right nuisance.

Our new one seems (crossed fingers!) like a bit of a find. Came out to give advice on a problem, gave sensible advice, told me that I'd inadvertently screwed up on something but that she'd pretend she hadn't noticed, and told me that we'd count the latest works as repairs.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 27-Feb-14 11:56:45

We're not having a lot done to start with. Half of one gable needs to be retiled and there's a stretch of flat roof that needs the roofing felt replacing (and we'll take the opportunity to add insulation).
I'm assuming we'll need LBC for the tiling because they'll want to approve the materials. I don't know how easy it will be to find an exact match for what's already there.

Ultimately there are some internal walls I'd like to rejig, to create a decent-sized master bedroom with en suite, but it would depend on understanding the different phases of construction much better - we don't yet even know which internal partitions and doors were added by the last occupant. (It was a care home so had to meet fire regs.) That would be much more complex and would require an architect and might not be allowed, but I would only want to do it in any case if I felt I wasn't compromising the history of the building, let alone what the Conservation Officer might think.

Beta - we've discussed Ryedale houses on here before when I was posting under a different name - we've been looking for a long time!

wonkylegs Thu 27-Feb-14 12:48:30

Sounds like I should be thankful for our local Conservation officer who seems to have her head screwed on the right way.
She often seems to suggest what she thinks would be ideal solution but does understand practicality/feasibility etc. I think she's probably quite straight talking to me because I'm an architect rather than Joe public.

MoreBeta Thu 27-Feb-14 13:15:17

wonky - very interesting you are an architect and the Conservation Officer is being sensible/practical.

I really get the impression that the Conservation Officers (there are 3 of them) round here always back off when an architect gets involved. In fact everyone who has a listed house round here talks openly of how to 'get round' listing rules by using certain architects.

Not suggesting in any way that you are being anything other than pristine in your dealings but it certainly is a very well known fact round here that there are rules for 'little people' and rules for 'other people who are well connected'.

Some of the decisions are downright bizarre and contradictory.

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