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17 September 2014
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Renovation rules and regulations

If you are considering renovating an older property, make sure that you are aware of the possible restrictions that may apply.

Listed buildings

Compiled by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, with the help of English Heritage, the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest includes castles, cathedrals, private houses, milestones and drinking fountains.

Grade I - these buildings are considered to be of exceptional interest
Grade II* - these are particularly important buildings of more than special interest
Grade II - these are buildings of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them

There are 370,000 or so list entries currently protected by listing, and of those by far the majority - over 92% - are Grade II. Grade I and II* buildings may be eligible for English Heritage grants for urgent major repairs. Find out more at the English Heritage website.

Some churches are graded A, B and C, which is roughly comparable to the grades of non-secular buildings. Your local library will hold a copy of the list. A listing will identify the building or structure and some of its special features.

Listed building consent

If a building is on the list, any building work will require 'listed building consent', according to the Planning Act 1990. This is obtained through the local planning authority. Even minor works, such as painting or simple repair work in some circumstances, falls under the scope of this act.

The penalty for ignoring this act is up to a 12-month prison sentence or a fine to an unlimited amount, or both. Then you can be expected to carry out, at your own expense, further works to the listed building to remedy the impact of the unauthorised works.

Permitted development rights are on the whole suspended from these buildings. Your local council conservation office should be your first port of call.

Conservation areas

An area considered to be of architectural or historical interest can be designated a conservation area by the local council.

In practice, this means additional restrictions beyond the normal planning laws. Planning permission will be required in the following instances:

  • to insert dormers or alter the roof of a house or to install a satellite dish on any wall or roof facing a highway or on any wall or chimney over 15m (50ft) tall
  • to clad any part of the exterior of a house with stone, artificial stone, timber, plastic or tiles
  • to extend a house by more than 50 cubic metres (including previous additions erected since 1948 or since the house was built) or ten per cent of the total volume of the original house subject to a maximum of 115 cubic metres
  • alteration or improvement of a building with a cubic content greater than 10 cubic metres within the curtilage of the dwelling house
  • total or substantial demolition of a listed building that has a volume in excess of 115 cubic metres, including some freestanding walls
  • to demolish or remove any wall, gate, fence or other means of enclosure if it's greater than 1m (3.3ft) high where abutting a highway, or 2m (6.6ft) high in any other case.

It's also worth remembering that trees are under special protection in conservation areas. If you're proposing any work on a tree, you're required to inform your local council six weeks before you intend to start work, and obtain its approval.

Party Wall Act 1996

A party wall has the following definitions:

  • It forms part of a building and stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners
  • It separates buildings and it either (a) stands astride the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners or (b) stands wholly on one person's land, but is used by two (or more) owners to separate their buildings. This relates to situations where one owner built the wall first and his neighbour has butted his building up to it without constructing his own wall.

A party fence is defined as:

  • a wall that is not part of a building (for example, a garden wall). This does not include wooden fences.

The act applies to all work to be carried out on an existing party wall, building astride the boundary line between two properties and excavations within 3m or 6m (9.8ft or 20ft) of a neighbouring building depending on the depth of hole or foundation.

The act was intended to generate communication and agreement between neighbours on proposed work that had a common wall.

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