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The listed building process started in 1947 as a response to the loss of buildings during the bombing in the Second World War. Marking a building as listed denotes it’s special architectural and historic interest so that it can be protected for future generations. The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed.

Surprisingly, the total number of listed buildings is not known, as one single entry on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) can sometimes cover several individual units, such as a row of terraced houses. However, we believe that there are around 500,000 listed buildings on the NHLE. About 45% of listed buildings are made up of churches and most of the listings were done between the 18th and 19th century.


Fig. 1: Age range of listed buildings in the UK

The figure above shows the Age range of listed buildings in the UK. The general principles are that all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are likely to be listed, as are most buildings built between 1700 and 1850. Particularly careful selection is required for buildings from the period after 1945. Buildings less than 30 years old are not normally considered to be of special architectural or historic interest because they have yet to stand the test of time.



Different classifications of listed buildings are used in different parts of the United Kingdom:

England and Wales: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II;

  • Grade I: Buildings of exceptional interest. Applies to only 2.5% of listings, few of which are homes
  • Grade II*: Particularly important buildings of more than special interest. Makes up around 5.5% of listed buildings
  • Grade II: Buildings of special interest.  The majority of listed buildings are this grade.

Scotland: Category A, Category B and Category C

  • Grade A: Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. Applies only to 8% of listings.
  • Grade B: Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered. 50% of listed buildings are this type.
  • Grade C: Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B. The remaining 42% of listed buildings are this type.

Northern Ireland: Grade A, Grade B+, Grade B1 and Grade B2

  • Grade A: Buildings of greatest importance to Northern Ireland including both outstanding architectural set-pieces and the least altered examples of each representative style, period and grouping.
  • Grade B+: Buildings which might have merited grade A status but for detracting features such as an incomplete design, lower quality additions or alterations. Also included are buildings that are clearly above the general standard set by grade B buildings because of exceptional features, interiors or environmental qualities. A building may merit listing as grade B+ where its historic importance is greater than a similar building listed as grade B.
  • Grade B1 and B2: Buildings of local importance and good examples of a particular period or style. A degree of alteration or imperfection of a design may be acceptable.

Fig. 2: Listed buildings in the UK



Listing is not a preservation order, preventing change.  Listed buildings are to be enjoyed and used, like any other building. It does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest. Listed buildings can be altered, extended, and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance. The local authority uses listed building consent to make decisions that balance the site’s historic significance against other issues, such as its function, condition, or viability.



Listed building control is a type of planning control, which protects buildings of special architectural or historical interest. These controls are in addition to any planning regulations which would normally apply. Listed building status can also result in the requirement for planning permission where it wouldn’t ordinarily be required. This special form of control is intended to prevent the unrestricted demolition, alteration, or extension of a listed building without the express consent of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing building regulations and planning rules and have the power to insist homeowners reverse any building work that does not comply.

Please note, it is a criminal offence to carry out work which needs listed building consent without obtaining it beforehand!


 Fig. 3:  Areas where building work breaks the regulation

More than 176,000 homeowners have been ordered by council officials to take down or rectify building work carried out on their properties in the past five years, leaving them considerably out of pocket. Some homeowners have been caught out by mistakenly believing it would be easier to obtain planning permission after they have carried out work rather than before. If you feel unsure, contact local authorities to discuss all the details and confirm the changes.

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