Unauthorised work to listed buildings

Last Updated: 3 April 2024

A building or structure is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest and is considered to be of national importance and merits protection.

Not all works require listed building consent, only demolition or works or alteration or extension that affect the character of the building.

It is not a defence to say that the fact that the building was listed was not known. It is a defence to show that the works were urgently needed, either for health and safety reasons or to preserve the property. This defence must be supported by evidence.

The offence is committed by the person who carries out the work (possibly the builder) and by anyone who caused the works to be carried out (someone instructing the builder)

The maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. The same penalties apply when a condition on a listed building consent is not met.

Listed building enforcement notice

As well as prosecuting any breaches of the law protecting listed buildings, we can also issue a listed building enforcement notice. The purpose of the notice is:

• to restore the building or structure to its former state
• carry out other works to alleviate the effect of the unauthorised work
• to ensure compliance with a previous listed building consent

We will issue a listed building enforcement notice when we consider it is appropriate.

There are no time limits for issuing listed building enforcement notices or for when enforcement action may be taken in relation to a breach of planning control with respect to relevant demolition, although the length of time that has elapsed since the apparent breach may be a relevant consideration when considering whether it is appropriate to issue a listed building enforcement notice.

Appeal against a listed building enforcement notice

An appeal against a listed building enforcement notice can be made by a person who owns, rents or lawfully occupies the site.

The appeal must be made in writing to the Planning Inspectorate before the listed building enforcement notice is effective. If no appeal is made, the enforcement notice will come into effect on the date specified in the notice and it must be complied with. This can be as soon as 28 days after the notice has been served.

If an appeal is made, the listed building enforcement notice is suspended and does not come into effect until either the appeal is decided or withdrawn. This allows the unauthorised activity to continue without penalty. If the activity is considered to be harmful to the surrounding area, we may issue a stop notice or a temporary stop notice (see section on stop notices).

Government information on how to appeal