How to Get a Building Listed

Geoff Huntingford


  The facade of Bracken Hill House, near Bristol  


Bracken Hill House, Long Ashton (unlisted)
The house stands in a residential suburb just west of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and within a conservation area. The house may seem a natural candidate for listing. Its grounds are Grade II registered along with those of two other adjoining properties, chiefly because of the extensive use of Pulhamite, a patented artificial rock. Bequeathed to Bristol University, the site was occupied as the university’s botanic gardens from 1960. The house was previously considered for listing in 2004. A further request for listing in 2008 was turned down, principally because the house, though large, is a late, typical and undistinguished example of the Domestic Revival style with no architectural innovation. Some interior features are of note but the interior is standardised and has been altered over time: an interior from this date would have to survive virtually intact to be considered for listing. The lodge is undistinguished and a coach house
substantially altered. The interest from an association with the Wills tobacco family and the group value with the grounds is insufficient to raise the overall significance of the buildings.


The lists of buildings of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ are intended to be an authoritative guide to the most important elements of the built heritage of the United Kingdom. The accuracy and relevance of the lists are essential to the general acceptance of this part of planning law and the controls that it entails. Ever since the lists in their current sense commenced in the 1940s, there have therefore been additions and amendments to them. These changes include the addition of new entries resulting either from individual requests or organised resurveys, alteration of grades, amendment of addresses or descriptions, removal of buildings from the list because of irreparable damage, or the rectification of mistakes.

The chief concern here is the first and most significant of these changes: the addition of new entries. It is intended to be of practical use to voluntary bodies and individual members of the public concerned with the preservation of local heritage as well as to professionals and recognised organisations in this field. The constituent parts of the UK have different rules and guidelines which will be covered as they arise.


For the purposes of this article, a ‘building’ includes any ‘structure’ or ‘erection’, and can include parts of such a building. Although it is not formally defined as such in law, a building has been taken to mean some form of artificial construction forming part of the land but distinguishable from it. The definitions do not themselves include plant or machinery, even though the existence of these may be the prime reason for the building’s historic interest. In such cases, the protection of internal fittings of interest will be assured as they can be treated as fixtures integral to the building.


In England, there are two main categories for selection, set out in full in paragraphs 6.10 to 6.16 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment or ‘PPG15’ (September 1994, as amended by Circular 01/2007):

  • architectural interest (important design, decoration or craftsmanship, nationally important building types or techniques including technological innovation or virtuosity) and plan forms
  • historic interest (important aspects of social, economic, cultural or military history or close historical associations with nationally important people).

There should be some interest in the historic fabric. The length of time a building has survived is also an indicator of its potential for inclusion on the list. Again referring to PPG15 (paragraph 6.11), the age criteria are as follows:

  • Before 1700: all buildings that contain a significant proportion of their original fabric
  • 1700–1840: most buildings
  • After 1840: progressively greater selection. Buildings less than 30 years old must be of outstanding quality and under threat.

Welsh criteria for architectural or historic interest are virtually identical with the above although the close historical associations are with people or events of importance to Wales, and a specific recognition of ‘group value’ (see Welsh Office Circulars 61/96 and 1/98, available on the Cadw website, for more information). Listing grades are the same as for England.

In Scotland, the principles of selection can be found in Annex 2 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (October 2008). There are three main principles: age and rarity, architectural or historic interest, and close historical associations. The age criteria are as follows:

  • Before 1840: all buildings of notable quality which survive predominantly in their original form
  • 1840–1945: buildings that are of special interest and of definite character either individually or as part of a group with greater selectivity after 1914
  • After 1945: buildings of definite architectural quality, with exceptional rigour applied to listing buildings less than 30 years old.

Architectural or historic interest can be found in interior design and decorative schemes, plan form, technological excellence or innovation, setting, or in the best examples of the local vernacular. Close historical associations can be a significant factor where physical fabric is also of some quality and interest and reflects the relevant person or event.

Gradings are as follows:

  • A: national or international importance or fine, little-altered examples of a particular period, style or type
  • B: regional or more than local importance or major examples which may have been altered
  • C: local importance, lesser examples or simple traditional buildings which group well with categories A and B or are part of a planned group.

Practice in Northern Ireland is defined in Annex C to Policy Statement 6: Planning, Archaeology and the Built Environment (March 1999). There are no explicit age criteria, the principles for selection being architectural interest (design, decoration or craftsmanship in the context of Northern Ireland, including innovation and significant plan forms), historic interest (important aspects of social, economic or cultural history or close associations with well-known people or events) and group value.


Listing in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as advised by English Heritage. Anyone may request that a building be added to the list at any time. As its expert advice is crucial to the process, it is English Heritage that receives requests for listing, processes them, carries out additional research, visits the property concerned and makes a recommendation to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Requests to list must not be vexatious and must be based on sound reasons referring back to the listing criteria set out above. PPG15 contains recommendations in paragraphs 6.22–6.25 on information to be submitted as part of the request, including the building’s address, any available information such as the date of construction, any specialised function, historical associations, the name of the architect, group value, details of interior features of interest, clear external and internal photographs, name and contact details of the owner (so that access can be requested) and a location map showing, wherever possible, the position of other listed buildings.

  The beach huts and café (early 20th century with minor later alterations) at South Cliff, Scarborough, were given a Grade II listing in 2008 as an important cultural milestone in the history of the British seaside. (Photo: Austen Sleightholme, Scarborough Civic Society)  

This last category is particularly important because the request to list carries with it the implication that the building was missed during the last resurvey. The greater the lapse of time since the last resurvey, the more likely that genuine requests to list will arise, often generated by a greater awareness of the relative significance of previously-discounted types of building.

Evidence from historic mapping may also be useful to demonstrate the significance of the building and its location and may help provide some account of its development over the past 150 years or so.

Where a building is under imminent threat from development proposals or from a lack of controls, it will be essential to let English Heritage and DCMS know and to ask them to conclude their assessment as a matter of urgency (what English Heritage refers to as a ‘hot case’). It remains open to local planning authorities to serve a building preservation notice under s.3 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, which comes into force immediately it is served on both the owner and the occupier of the building (or in extreme urgency affixed conspicuously to the building in question under s.4) and remains in force for six months unless the building is listed or the local planning authority is informed that it will not be listed.

Once the owners of the buildings in question have been contacted for access, they may wish to commission their own review of comparative architectural or historic interest, which it will be right and proper for them to submit in the same way to English Heritage and DCMS.

It is then up to English Heritage to conclude its assessment and report to DCMS, and for DCMS to publish its decision. Decisions come supplemented with the advisor’s report and recommendation and the comments of officers countersigning the recommendation.

It is possible, however, for a review of the decision to be requested. This has to be either because the decision has been wrongly made (either a factual error has been made or some irregularity in the process has occurred such as a failure to take relevant information into account) or because significant evidence has come to light which should be taken into account. Any review must be lodged with DCMS within 28 days of the original decision, although requests received after this date may be considered in exceptional circumstances. The original decision stands unless and until the original decision is either affirmed or overturned.

In Wales, buildings are added to the list either as a result of systematic resurvey or requests from local authorities, interested societies or individuals. Requests should be addressed to Cadw’s Designations Section, including much the same information as for England. The decision is made by the Welsh Assembly on the advice of Cadw’s Inspectorate of Historic Buildings after consultation with local authorities and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

Historic Scotland welcomes any additional historical information that can be provided by owners or local amenity or historical societies. It provides a proposal form on its website and asks for recent, dated and captioned photographs, any information on the building’s history and any present threats, and details of ownership to assist with arrangements to access the building. Historic Scotland does state that a building will not normally be listed while a planning permission is under consideration or if one has been granted that will have an adverse impact on its character. Building Preservation Notices are however available to local planning authorities in cases where buildings are threatened by demolition or extensive alterations.

Annex C of PPS6 in Northern Ireland states that buildings are normally added to the list as a result of systematic resurvey or review of particular areas or building types, but that ‘on occasion the Department may consider suggestions made by members of the public’. The statement notes that a resurvey is currently underway.



The Building Conservation Directory, 2009


GEOFF HUNTINGFORD BSc(Hons) MA MRTPI IHBC has worked as a conservation officer for South Staffordshire District Council and for Sheffield City Council. He moved into private practice with McCoy Associates in 1985, and is currently conservation planner at West Waddy ADP, architects and town planners in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

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