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Planning Permission: Listed Buildings and Other Heritage Assets

In very general terms planning permission is needed for most new buildings, works that affect the external appearance of a property and for material changes of use. Technically speaking, planning permission is needed for development, which is legally defined.

Many minor works are permitted development and are therefore deemed to have permission provided the conditions for such permitted development are followed (1).

These permitted development rights may be restricted or removed by an article 4 direction, sometimes seen in conservation areas in particular.    

Planning permission is also required for relevant demolition in a conservation area. Planning permission may be needed in addition to listed building or scheduled monument consent. The application process and requirements for each are different. 

What activity does and does not require planning permission is matter of considerable complexity. The Government’s Planning Portal provides much useful advice. Any doubts should be raised directly with planning or conservation officers in the relevant local planning authority.

A failure to apply for planning permission when required can lead to an enforcement notice being served requiring reversal of the works. Failure to follow an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.

Works forming part of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects do not require planning permission, but instead require development consent.

In the case of a listed building, any works to alter, extend or demolish the building in a way that affects its character as a building of special interest require listed building consent from the local planning authority, whether planning permission is also needed or not. Listing status covers the entire building, internal and external, and so works which require consent might include the replacement of windows and internal alterations, for example.

Planning applications and listed building consent applications are usually decided by the local planning authority, which is the local district authority in regions with county and district councils, or the unitary authority or London Borough.

Applications for listed building consent for part or the whole of the same works as those covered by a planning application should be applied for and considered together. In large part the same heritage conservation considerations will apply. The Government’s policy for the historic environment on deciding all such consents and permissions is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (2). The framework does not distinguish between the type of application being made. It is the significance of the heritage assets and the impact of the proposals that should determine the decision.

Local planning authorities should be happy to discuss the requirements of any application in terms of supporting material and the merits of any proposals as part of ‘pre-application’ discussions.

Demolition and heritage assets

Following a decision in a judicial review case in 2011 (3), the understanding of what demolition requires planning permission has changed. The position appears now to be as follows:

1. Planning permission is in principle required for demolition of listed buildings; conservation areas buildings; non-residential and residential buildings, notwithstanding that separate consent (such as listed building consent) may also be required.

2. Planning permission is not needed for demolition of buildings of external volume of 50 cubic metres or less or for the demolition of a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure, except in conservation areas as long as they are not development in the first place.

3. Where planning permission is in principle required an application may still not be necessary as permission may be deemed given under the General Permitted Development Order (1).

4. Part 11 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 permits the demolition of a building without an application being needed, unless:

(a) the building has been rendered unsafe or otherwise uninhabitable by the action or inaction of any person having an interest in the land on which the buiding stands and it is practicable to secure health and safety by works or repair or works for affording temporary support; or

(b) the demolition is 'relevant demolition' for the purposes of s196D of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (4).

5. Before exercising any permitted development rights to demolish a building a developer must ask the local planning authority if prior approval of the method of demolition is needed. If permitted development demolition is carried out urgently in the interest of health and safety, the developer must, as soon as reasonably practicable, write to the authority justifying the demolition.

6. The Local Planning Authority can protect heritage assets that are non-listed buildings and buildings outside of conservation areas from demolition by using an article 4 direction to remove these permitted development rights.

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