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3rd September, 2012


Improving Listed Building Consent Consultation

The Government is currently consulting on proposals which seek to reduce the number of circumstances in which the submission of a full listed building consent (LBC) is required. Four options have been put forward:

1. A system of prior notification leading to deemed LBC – This involves applicants submitting a simple prior notification of the intention to carry out works to a listed building. The LPA would then have 28 days to either send written confirmation that the works may be undertaken or to request a full LBC request.
2. A system of local and national class consents granting deemed LBC – This system would remove the need for LBCs for carrying out particular types of work on specific types of heritage assets. For example, allowing the removal of internal partitions in groups of buildings which are considered to be of value primarily for their external appearance . The different local ‘class consents’ would be determined by the LPA, but the Secretary of State (advised by English Heritage) would have the ability to intervene or determine classes for groups of listed assets which cross council boundaries and set out national class consents.
3. A certificate of lawful works for listed buildings – This would provide a mechanism to give developers an assurance as to whether an LBC would be required for given works. They could not only be granted for proposed works but also retrospectively for works carried out in the belief that an LBC was not required. This would give potential buyers confirmation of the legality of any works carried out.
4. Accredited agents replacing local authority officer recommendations on LBC, if applicants wish – It was found that many applications affecting heritage assets were accompanied by supporting detailed heritage reports. The proposed idea would effectively allow such reports to become a recommendation to the council, ‘certifying’ whether the proposed works were acceptable. The idea is designed to broaden the expertise available to the council whilst making their decision. The LPA would be expected to follow the advice given by ‘certified agents’ however, to protect the system from abuse, the LPA still has the final decision and is able to ignore the recommendation in cases where it feels that the special interest of the building would be harmed.
The Government is also looking at how to tighten up enforcement work in cases of listed buildings which appear to be neglected.
There has been criticism of how aspects of this proposed new system could be open to abuse, particularly as the accredited agents will be working directly for the developers. There are concerns that the desire to reduce the number of full LBC applications will result in listed buildings being less well protected. Many small alterations, which may go unnoticed in the new system, could add up and become just as damaging as a large project.
The Government has tried to negate these concerns by suggesting that the reduction of full LBC applications will allow LPAs to focus their resources on larger schemes or buildings which are most at risk.