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Planning reforms and listed buildings: the law

A framework for significant changes to the law which will affect listed buildings and conservation areas are provided for in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which received royal assent at the end of April 2013.

Many of the reforms have their roots in a parliamentary bill which was drafted in 2008, the Heritage Protection Reform Bill, but later dropped from the legislative programme.

The provisions made by this recent Act of Parliament – which will be underpinned by secondary legislation in the future – are part of the Government’s wider ‘red tape challenge’ and form part of a package of reforms that seek to achieve deregulation and stimulate economic growth.

In this spirit, the heritage reforms contained within the framework of the Act are aimed at streamlining the listed building and planning consent process for development within the historic environment.

The reforms aim to reduce red tape challenges for owners of listed buildings in England who are seeking to undertake works that will not affect the special interest of the buildings without, however, weakening the overall protection afforded to these buildings of national significance. 

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Any measures aimed at streamlining the planning system are welcomed, and these measures should achieve efficiencies for listed building owners and developers alike.

Crucially, they will help to provide greater clarity which is always helpful when dealing with the many shades of grey that exist within the listed building consent regime.

However, the extent to which these measures will achieve will achieve substantial savings in practice is questionable and will only play out fully when any secondary legislation is enacted.

Many of the new legislative tools will place significant additional demand on local authority officers at a time when resources are already stretched.

They are unlikely to be appropriate or cost effective management tools for the majority of heritage assets and are as likely to require a body of evidence not dissimilar to that required under the existing listed building consent regime.

As consultants and practitioners, we consider that many of the problems that the reforms seek to resolve could be addressed through a well-resourced, well-supported and well-informed local planning authority, without the need for yet more change and complexity added to what can already be a difficult system to navigate.

The changes set to come into force include:

Conservation Area Consent: Separate Conservation Area Consent will no longer be required for the demolition of an unlisted building within a conservation area. This will instead be covered by a requirement for planning permission to include the demolition works.

Designation of Listed Buildings: Greater clarity will be possible through a new power to exclude from the listing certain structures attached to the building or within the curtilage that are not of special interest, and to specify a part or feature of the principal listed building as not being of special interest.  This is aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary applications for works to curtilage and attached listed structures that are not of special interest.

Heritage Partnership Agreements: This measure will allow owners of listed buildings to enter into a voluntary management agreement with the local planning authority and any other interested parties that will have the power to grant consent for specific works as well as to specify works that would not affect the special interest. This is likely to be helpful for owners of larger listed buildings and estates with ongoing maintenance and management obligations.

Listed Building Consent Orders and Local Listed Building Consent Orders:  Local planning authorities will have the power to establish Local Listed Building Consent Orders that will authorise a class of works to be undertaken to an agreed area, group of listed buildings, or even single listed building. These will be able to be established by the Secretary of State for a group of assets across local authority boundaries through the powers of the Listed Building Consent Orders.

Certificate of Lawfulness:  Much like those issued for planning permission, this will allow owners to apply for formal confirmation that the works proposed would not impact upon the special interest of a listed building, and therefore listed building consent is not required. These certificates will last for a period of 10 years, and are intended to avoid unnecessary listed building consent applications as well as to help owners to avoid the risk of carrying out works unlawfully.

Certificates of Immunity: 
Under the new changes, these certificates will be able to be applied for independently from a planning application.

Joanna Burton joined Beacon Planning in October 2010 as a heritage consultant. Beacon Planning is an independent planning, conservation and urban design consultancy offering a wide range of interlinked services focussed upon achieving high quality, cost effective and site specific solutions.

Their experience and skills mean that they fully understand the complexities of securing consent for development in historic and sensitive environments. Call 01223 810990 or visit for more information.

This is an article from ProjectBook which provides a wide range of information for the conservation, restoration, care and repair of period and listed buildings. Established in 2008, ProjectBook provides recognition and support for the Uk’s leading conservation and heritage professionals as well as putting property owners in touch with the right people and information.

Beacon Planning are members of the Heritage Register which contains over 500 conservation approved craftsmen, contractors and consultants from all over the UK. Updated daily with new content, the website features the Heritage Register, a products directory, informative articles, current news, events around the UK and more. For more information, visit