Planning Permission: Listed Buildings and Other Heritage Assets

This page covers what planning permission is, when it is required and how demolition and heritage assets relate.

Planning permission

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 (ref. 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 a 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.

Planning applications are usually determined by the local planning authority (although some will be decided by the Secretary of State). Historic England will be consulted by the authority making the decision on many applications which could affect designated heritage assets (ref. 2)

Listed building 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)  (ref. 3). 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.

More detail on listed buildings can be found on the Listed Building Consent page of this guide

Demolition and heritage assets

Great care is needed when considering demolition and heritage assets.

A judicial review case in 2011 (ref. 4) had the effect of requiring planning permission to be obtained for a demolition of more buildings than had previously been the case, and law and policy in this area has continued to evolve. The following legal and policy considerations are intended as an overview of the position, however, early engagement with the local planning authority is encouraged to establish the permission and consent required.

  1. Demolition is a type of development (ref. 5), however, certain works are excluded from the definition of ‘development’, which include the demolition of buildings with an external volume of 50 cubic metres or less, and the demolition of a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure, except in conservation areas. (ref. 6)
  2. Schedule 2, Part 11 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (ref. 1) permits the demolition of a building without an application being needed, however, there are a number of important exceptions to this right which must be considered, and the local authority’s prior approval may be needed. Permitted development rights may also have been removed by an article 4 direction or a planning condition attached to an earlier planning permission.
  3. A recent direction made by the Secretary of State requires planning permission to be obtained for the removal of statues and monuments (where their removal falls within the legal definition of ‘development’ and permitted development rights are not available) (ref. 5),
  4. Demolition of un-listed buildings in conservation areas will almost always require planning permission. Planning permission is not needed where listed building consent or scheduled monument consent (as appropriate) has been obtained for the demolition of the structure.


(1) The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015

(2) Schedule 4, Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015

(3) National Planning Policy Framework,  Ministry for Housing,  Communities and Local Government, July 2021

(4) R (on the application of SAVE Britain's Heritage) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] EWCA Civ 334

(5) s55 Town and Country Planning Act 1990

(6) Town and Country Planning (Demolition - Description of Buildings) Direction 2021