Conservation and Maintenance Work for Listed Buildings and Other Heritage Assets
This page discusses renewal, repairs and what consent is needed for the conservation and maintenance of heritage assets.
Periodic renewal, such as re-covering roofs, differs from maintenance in that it occurs on a longer cycle, is usually more serious in nature and often has a greater visual impact than ordinary repair.
It may involve the temporary loss of certain aspects of significance, e.g the patina of age on an old roof covering, but provided the replacement is physically and visually compatible it should normally be acceptable.
By contrast, the consequence of not undertaking periodic renewal is normally more extensive loss of fabric (ref. 1)..
The justification for periodic renewal will normally be that the fabric concerned is becoming incapable of fulfilling its intended functions through more limited intervention (ref. 1).
Repair that is necessary to sustain the heritage asset is normally desirable if (ref. 1):
- there is sufficient information to understand comprehensively the impacts of the proposals on the significance of the place; and
- the long term consequences of the proposals can, from experience, be demonstrated to be benign, or the proposals are designed not to prejudice alternative solutions in the future; and
- the proposals are designed to avoid or minimise harm, if actions necessary to sustain particular heritage values tend to conflict .
The extent of the repair should normally be limited to what is reasonably necessary to make failing elements sound and capable of continuing to fulfil their intended functions (ref. 1).
There is no direct legal obligation on the owner of a heritage asset to carry out repairs. However, local and central government may force repairs to be carried out by using an urgent works notice on a listed building not in use, or to a part not in use, where the works are urgently necessary for its preservation. If the works are not carried out by the owner, the authority has the power to enter the property, carry out the works and seek to recover the costs from the owner.
Furthermore, a listed building may be compulsorily acquired by a local authority or the Secretary of State if it appears that reasonable steps are not being taken for properly preserving the building and it is expedient to make provision for the preservation of the building by authorising its compulsory purchase. The first step in such a procedure is the service of a repairs notice.
If carrying out a repair or renewal to a listed building would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, then listed building consent will be required. Many repairs will not affect the character of the building. However, it is not true that repairs using like-for-like materials will never require consent as such repairs still may affect the special interest in the building. The removed materials may, for example, hold historic interest.
The local planning authority should be contacted for advice on the need for listed building consent.
Any works of repair or renewal of a scheduled monument will require scheduled monument consent unless they would be otherwise permitted under one of the Class Consents (ref. 2). Applications for scheduled monument consent are decided by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport but the administration of applications is undertaken by Historic England.
It is conceivable that repairs to a heritage asset could require planning permission. To require planning permission the repairs would have to amount to development as defined in legislation (ref. 3) and in particular would have to materially affect the external appearance of the building.
Further information is available in the ‘Need for Consent and Permissions’ section of the Heritage Protection Guide.
Repair and maintenance techniques and standards
Historic England and many other authors and organisations have published practical advice on best practice in conservation repair and maintenance.
In 2012 Historic England revised its ten volume series called "Practical Building Conservation" covering topics such as glass, stone, roofing and mortar.