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Frequently asked questions

Here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions

Listed Buildings and the Listing Process

Q. What is a Listed Building?
A.Listed Buildings are buildings which have been designated by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as being of 'special architectural or historic interest'. Recommendations for, and records of, Listed Buildings are maintained by English Heritage, the government's lead body for the historic environment which acts as the government's advisor on additions and alterations to the Statutory List. You cannot alter or demolish a Listed Building without permission. More information can be found on the English Heritage website.

Q. How does a building become listed?
A. Buildings are listed for a variety of reasons and may qualify under one or more of these criteria:

  • Architectural interest: listing aims to include all buildings of importance to the nation for reason of their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship;
  • Historic interest: this includes buildings which display important aspects of the nation's social, cultural, economic or military history;
  • Historical associations: buildings with close historical ties with nationally important people or events;
  • Group value: particularly where buildings together make up an important architectural or historical unity or a fine example of planning (for example, squares, terraces, model villages).

Each Listed Building has a List Description. Each description varies in length from a few lines for a simple site such as a stile or milestone, to several pages of detailed architectural description for a complex building, such as a cathedral.

Q. What do the different grades mean?
A. Listed Buildings are classified in grades to show their relative importance, Grade I, II* & II.

Grade I is reserved for buildings of international stature and, in all only 2.5% of buildings are so designated. Those graded II* are defined as ‘outstanding' and comprise 5.5% of present listings. Most listed buildings are graded II, for their ‘special' interest and national significance.

Q. How did the lists of historic buildings originate?
A. The Statutory Lists of Historic Buildings were first compiled under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. By 1970 almost every local authority area had a statutory list. As survey standards and our understanding of historic buildings improved it became clear that coverage did not reflect the full richness, interest and variety of England's heritage. New research and increasing appreciation have led to successive reassessments and by January 2007, the total number of Listed Buildings stood at approximately 372,722. The process of review is still underway, especially in areas such as industrial archaeology and the architecture of the post-war period.

Visit the English Heritage website for more information.

Q. What is a List Description?
A. Details of Listed Buildings are published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). These lists are public documents and copies are held by local authorities, many local libraries as well as by English Heritage.

The lists contain the address of the historic building in question. This is the legal part of the document. The description is mainly there to help identify the building (very important in the early days of listing when postal addresses could be quite vague) but increasingly over recent years, they have become fuller to give a clearer idea about the building's history, appearance and significance. The newest listings usually contain a brief statement that summarises in architectural shorthand what it is about the building that gives it its special historic interest. Without this, List Descriptions can sometimes be quite difficult to use since they are written in technical shorthand for the use of local authority conservation specialists.

Q. Who writes the lists and why?
A. . Who writes the lists and why? A. Historic building experts within (or commissioned by) English Heritage write List Descriptions on behalf of the Secretary of State to help local authorities carry out their responsibilities under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990. List Descriptions provide the essential first step in identifying what it is that is protected by law and what it is that makes the building of special architectural or historic interest. They are not comprehensive inventories of everything that is significant about a building and nothing should be dismissed as unimportant simply because it is not described in the List Description. Listing controls extend to the interiors as well as the exteriors of buildings and to any pre-1948 curtilage buildings.

Q. The List Descriptions sometimes contain references to other information sources, what are these?
A. The List Description may contain references to sources of information, both published and unpublished, which were used in the compilation of the List Description. The lists have been created over a long period of time and by a number of different inspectors. It is perhaps inevitable, therefore, that the sources have been noted in a variety of formats. Recent List Descriptions will probably have the source cited in full, but some of the older descriptions may have the source heavily abbreviated. For example, the well known Buildings of England series of volumes by Nikolaus Pevsner detailing the architectural heritage of England, and produced on a county basis, may simply be referred to as BOE together with the appropriate page reference. Similarly, the inventories of the former Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England may only be quoted as RCHM with the appropriate Parish Number for the building. One of the most common unpublished sources used is 'photograph in the NMR', which refers to the archive collections of the National Monuments Record, now known as the English Heritage Archive.

Within the lists you may find references to:

Scheduled Ancient Monuments
Scheduling is the process through which legal protection is given to nationally important sites and monuments by adding them to a Schedule. The Schedule contains around 19,700 entries (around 36,200 sites) ranging from prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds to roman forts and medieval villages, and including more recent structures such as collieries and wartime pill-boxes. Visit the English Heritage website for more information

Register of Parks and Gardens
There are currently 1,588 sites included in the Register, which records Parks and Gardens of historic interest. All sites benefit from protection in the planning process, and some are also open to the public. Grade II sites (60 per cent of all registered sites) are of special historic interest; Grade II* sites (30 per cent) are of exceptional historic interest; and Grade I sites (10 per cent) are internationally significant. Visit the English Heritage website for more information

Battlefields Register
This register identifies 43 areas of historic significance in England where important battles took place. Where they survive, battlefields may contain important topographical and archaeological evidence which can increase understanding of the momentous events of history which took place on their soil. For more details please click here to e-mail..

Q. Some of the information in the list description for my building has changed, how can I update it?
A. Your help in drawing errors to our attention is valuable and welcome, especially so where the address is wrongly given. The lists are being constantly revised and any corrections provided by visitors to the Images of England website will be dealt with by English Heritage and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) when resources allow. Some errors and omissions to the lists are more serious than others and these will receive priority treatment. We will endeavour to correct address errors as quickly as possible. Visit the English Heritage website for more information

Q. How do I get a building listed/delisted?
A. If you wish to have a building considered for designation or de-designation you can submit an application using the Heritage Protection Online Application Form.

If you have any quieries or would like the application form in a different format, please contact our Customer Services department.

Telephone: 0870 333 1181
Fax: 01793 414926
Textphone: 01793 414878
Email: customers@english-heritage.org.uk

Q. What restrictions are there on future alterations to or development on a Listed Building?
A. If you need advice on any alterations or repairs you wish to make contact your local planning authority (your district council, unitary authority or National Park authority.) Ask for the Conservation Officer or the Planning Department. You can also find more information on the English Heritage website.

Q. Can I apply for a grant from English Heritage?
A. English Heritage targets grants to cases of real need and where a building will be used in a way which will ensure its permanent survival. For more information on this please see the English Heritage website.

Please note that the inclusion of a listed building on this website does not mean it is open to the public.