Workmen working on the restoration of Cromford Mill

Cromford Mill, Matlock, Derbyshire © Historic England DP169097
Cromford Mill, Matlock, Derbyshire © Historic England DP169097

Support for Your Property

Successfully adapting a historic building to new uses is challenging and rewarding. It requires an understanding of what is special about it and how it was built. And it involves negotiation with planning officers and conservation specialists about the best ways of restoring the building while retaining its character.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon "We are extremely grateful for Historic Englands's support for our low-key approach to restoration. We are equally grateful that they encouraged us to make a bold new intervention to the complex history of our theatre." Peter Wilson, Project Director. Developer: Royal Shakespeare Company, Architect: Bennetts Associates © Hayes Davidson

First principles

It makes sound economic sense to understand the condition of a property and its potential for change before buying it. By paying the right price right at the start, there is less risk of having to go for an unreasonably ambitious planning consent in order to achieve a viable return on investment, which could lead to conflict, delays and loss of profit.

Finding out about a listed property

Information about all of England’s listed buildings can be accessed online through the National Heritage List for England, while you can access historic environment records (HERs) across the country via Heritage Gateway.

Our website also provides a comprehensive guide to how the designation system works and our Planning Charter explains the process for obtaining consent to make changes to listed buildings.

In the case of buildings at risk, more detailed information about condition and ownership can be accessed either via Heritage at Risk or the specially prepared downloadable information pack about each of our regional 'top ten' building at risk rescue opportunities.

Before preparing detailed plans for the development of an historic building it is essential to carry out further research into its history, significance and structural condition. Historic records and photographs relating to hundreds of thousands of different building can be accessed through the National Monuments Record, Historic England's publicly accessible archive.

As well as appointing architects and engineers who specialise in the repair and conversion of historic buildings you may also need to commission a detailed historical and architectural survey of the building and its surroundings in advance of applying for planning permission, listed building consent and any historic building grants for which your property may be eligible. Our section on finding professional help has lots of useful information.

Conservation Principles

To help people understand how Historic England thinks about historic buildings we have published our Conservation Principles. This is a carefully worded booklet examining the subject in depth. These principles guide our advice on how historic buildings can be changed successfully.

Pre-application advice

If you are developing a Grade I or II* building, Historic England would expect to have an early pre-application discussion about the potential of the building to accommodate change. Our advice is supported by a wealth of expertise and practical experience of working with developers of historic buildings all over the country.

It is important to first contact your Local Planning Authority to discuss your scheme. Early consultation will give you a clear understanding on what might and might not be possible. The Local Planning Authority will be able to advise you on when you should contact your local Historic England team for informal advice prior to making a planning application.  We will record the outcome of pre-application discussions in writing to give you greater clarity.

Obtaining permission

Providing relevant information to Historic England or the local planning authority at all stages of the planning process saves time, money and avoids a delay in responses.

As we explain in our Planning Charter, any significant alteration to or re-development of a listed building requires listed building consent as well as planning permission. Listed building consent is granted by the same local authority that awards planning permission, but in the case of Grade I and II*, and on occasion, Grade II buildings Historic England also has to be consulted.

Technical advice and guidance

As well as the site-specific advice that may be available from our local teams, Historic England has developed an extensive portfolio of advice and written guidance for the benefit of the owners, managers and developers of the historic environment.

First aid for vacant historic buildings

If a significant amount of time is likely to elapse between buying a disused building and the start of a restoration project it is vitally important to protect it from the elements. A programme of routine inspection and basic maintenance is also likely to more than cover its costs.

Vacant Historic Buildings: An Owner's Guide to Temporary Uses, Maintenance and Mothballing is a Historic England publication that describes some of the more specific steps to be taken to protect the fabric of temporarily unoccupied buildings.

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