Compulsory Acquisition of Listed Buildings

Local authorities, the Secretary of State and Historic England (in Greater London) have powers to compulsorily acquire a listed building if necessary for its long-term preservation.

The building must be in some disrepair, the owner must be shown to be unwilling or unable to carry out the repairs himself and, in essence, it has to be shown that the building will be better off in the ownership of the authority or somebody else that the authority intends to hand it to. Compensation is paid to the owner (1).

More detailed information is given in the Historic England publication 'Stopping the Rot' (2).

Repairs notice

As the first step in the process, a local authority will serve a repairs notice (3) on the owner of a listed building specifying those works which it considers reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of the building. This procedure may not be used in the case of an unlisted building, a scheduled monument (whether listed or not), a building in ecclesiastical use or crown land.

If, after not less than two months, it appears that reasonable steps are not being taken by the owner for the proper preservation of the building the authority can begin compulsory purchase proceedings to acquire the building from the owner (3).

Content of a repairs notice

The works which may be specified in the repairs notice must be those works which are reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of the building.

Historic England advises that a repairs notice should be considered in cases where protracted failure by an owner to keep a listed building in reasonable care places the building at risk: for example, where a building is neglected so that the need for permanent repair has accumulated to the point where the building is at risk of serious harm. A repairs notice should be intended to secure works for the long term preservation of the listed building.

There is no provision for an appeal against a repairs notice nor is there a requirement to consider the financial means of the owner when specifying the works.

Compulsory purchase procedure

The procedure is broadly similar to the procedure for any compulsory purchase (4). The land and building to be acquired must be defined with care and by reference to a map. The order may include any adjoining land reasonably required with the building. The order is advertised in local press and served on each owner and occupier of the land not less than two months after the service of the repairs notice. At least 21 days must be allowed for any objections to be made.

Anyone served with notice of the order may within 28 days appeal to the Magistrates Court for an order to stop any further proceedings. This will be granted by the Court if it is satisfied that reasonable steps are being taken by the applicant to properly preserve the building. There is a further right of appeal from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court.

Confirmation of the order

The Compulsory Purchase Order has to be confirmed by the Secretary of State. If any objections are made the Secretary of State may first hold a public inquiry to consider the objections.

The Secretary of State will only confirm the order if satisfied that (1):

  1. Reasonable steps are not being taken to preserve the building
  2. That it is expedient that the building should be preserved
  3. That it should be compulsorily purchased to ensure its preservation

In other words, it is not sufficient that the owner is neglecting the building. There has to be a credible plan in place to secure the building's future. That plan may include a proposal to immediately transfer the property to a building preservation trust upon acquisition.


Open market value is the normal basis for the assessment of compensation in a compulsory purchase case. However, there are some differences in the case of a listed building in disrepair.

The local authority may include within the Compulsory Purchase Order application a direction for minimum compensation if it considers that the owner has deliberately allowed the building to fall into disrepair in order to justify its demolition and secure premission for redevelopment of the site (5).

Ancient monuments

The Secretary of State may acquire any ancient monument by compulsory purchase and also any adjoining land needed for the management or maintanance of the monument or to facilitate access to it (6). Local authorities can be authorised by the Secretary of State to compulsory acquire any land in their area if it will facilitate the carrying out of development or is necessary to achieve the interests of proper planning in the area (7).

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