Words – Will Foster

Originally published in the Financial Times


We have been advised that our listed building cannot be touched, but our neighbour has clearly added to their home. What can we do?


You were probably drawn to your home because of its beauty and originality. The listing is safeguarding this, but you can work with your listing to address your needs. Your neighbour may well have followed all the correct protocols and succeeded in obtaining permission for their alterations. With a little research, you can find out about your own listing via Historic England, and also view the planning history on your local authority website. You will be surprised how much information can be gathered about your house and your neighbours’. I enjoy unravelling all of a house’s alterations, bodged jobs or past owners’ oddities from the years of its existence. With the right heritage consultant, you can research back to when the land was developed and potentially locate the original house plans. With a good grasp of your house’s history, you are in a strong position to explore its potential for change. You may find some of the primary rooms have been subdivided, false ceilings installed and low-value extensions added. These types of discoveries are considered important and will help you with your proposals, as you may be able to enhance the special interest of the listed building while altering it. Your local conservation officer will welcome your research into the building’s history and this will give you negotiating power in proposing alterations to suit your needs. A pre-application consultation is the right way to start this dialogue. With the right pre-planning work, much can be achieved to improve your home without compromising its beauty or special interest. A final word: a listing is all-encompassing. Alterations to a listed home without listed building consent can result in heavy penalties.