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Listed Building Grades Explained


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13th Sep 2022 (Last updated on 12th Mar 2024) 8 minute read

Listed buildings are properties that are of special architectural or historical interest. They could also be buildings that hold national importance.

These buildings are added to the National Heritage List for England where they are officially deemed as protected. The three categories of significance for listed buildings are Grade I, Grade II, and Grade II*.

In Wales, Cadw (the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment department) protects historic buildings. In Scotland, it is the Historic Environment Scotland and in Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities.

Here we explain the types of listed buildings and the responsibilities that come with owning one.

  1. Types of Listed Buildings
  2. Why are Buildings Listed?
  3. Pros and Cons of Listed Buildings
  4. Buying a Listed Building
  5. Selling a Listed Building
  6. How to Find Out if My Building is Listed
  7. Listed Building Consent (LBC)
  8. What Types of Work Do You Need Consent For on Grade II Listed Buildings?
  9. What Can You Do to a Listed Building Without Permission?
  10. Finding a Surveyor
  11. Learn More About Surveying

Types of Listed Buildings

There are around 500,000 listed buildings in the country. Of these, there are three main types of listed buildings. The period and style of the building, in addition to its cultural significance, will contribute to its listed status. Below are the different types of listed buildings in England:

Grade I Listed Building

Grade I listed buildings are deemed of exceptional interest. This means the site has exceptional national, architectural or historical importance.

Only 2.5% of listed buildings fall into the Grade I category. Examples of current Grade I listed buildings include Buckingham Palace and The Houses of Parliament.

Grade II Listed Building

Grade II listed buildings are of special architectural interest. This means that every effort is made to preserve them. Around 92% of all listed buildings are within this category. Most listed homes will fall into this bracket, especially if built before July 1948.

Grade II* Listed Building

Grade II listed buildings are split into 2 categories: Grade II and Grade II*. Less than 6% of listed buildings are categorised as Grade II*. These buildings are of high importance and deemed more than "special interest”.

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Why are Buildings Listed?

Ultimately, buildings across the UK are listed to protect them. This is either from damage, neglect or changes and alterations. Regulations are implemented to ensure buildings are maintained for future generations.

These buildings are often examples of a particular time period or are notable for their style of architecture. If deemed important for history, culture and education, it can be considered for listed building status.

Listed buildings are much more than grand manors and Cotswold cottages. They can range from palaces and pavilions to housing estates and factories. They can also include structures and statues, libraries and churches.

A few examples of residential listed buildings across the UK include:

  • Cook’s Camden, London
  • Byker Estate, Newcastle
  • Barclays Bank House, Hay on Wye, Wales
  • Anniesland Court, Glasgow, Scotland

How a Building Becomes Listed

Anyone can nominate a building to be listed in the UK. For England, Historic England will recommend the building to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). They will then assess the building against the principles of selection and make a decision.

There will be slightly different criteria and processes for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You must go through the process laid out by the individual organisations in each country.

The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed as fewer examples of that time are likely to exist.

Pros and Cons of Listed Buildings

Below we look at the pros and cons of buying a home that is listed.


Listed buildings are often beautiful, unique and charming homes.

A listing building will likely cost more to buy and run. For example, higher energy bills.

You will own a piece of history or a home of architectural importance.

You will need permission from the local council to take out any work on a listed property.

They are often located in unique sought-after areas. For example, in the Cotswolds.

Repairs on these homes can be more expensive as they must be like for like. For example, PVC as a replacement for sash windows would not be allowed.

The value of a listed building appreciates faster than non-listed buildings. As a result, they’re often a great investment.

Many listed buildings are old and unusual and therefore not suited to modern living. For example, low ceilings, oddly shaped rooms or large, drafty rooms.

These homes are likely to be more expensive to insure.

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Buying a Listed Building

Buying a listed building comes with a certain amount of responsibility. You’ll need to take good care of the home and ensure consent is provided before making any alterations.

The first thing you’ll need is a surveyor to conduct a Listed Building Survey or Historic Building Survey. This is a specialised type of survey for historical or architectural import buildings. A chartered surveyor will undertake what is essentially a Level 3 Building Survey. The difference is, that they will have specialist knowledge of listed buildings.

The survey will highlight any issues or concerns with the property and its structure. They can also tell you about unique details in the home and how they can be maintained. They may then suggest you have a Structural Survey to assess any structural issues.

Your conveyancer will also need to conduct essential conveyancing searches. These will highlight any environmental issues that can affect the property and surrounding area. The issues can include subsidence, flooding, and radon gas levels. In the case of listed buildings, your conveyancer may have to carry out extensive searches.

You cannot complete alterations without permission from your local authority. Obtaining consent can be a long process so it’s important to understand the implications.

You will also require specialist insurance as the rebuild cost of a listed building is higher than a traditional home. It will also cost more to maintain and repair as you’ll need to use specific materials and tradespeople.

Selling a Listed Building

The process of selling a listed building is similar to the process of selling a house. However, there will be additional paperwork you’ll have to complete.

You’ll need to provide evidence of any alterations made with the proper permissions. This includes changes both you and any previous owners have made. You may also have to provide receipts or insurance documents to prove that work was carried out by specialised tradespeople. The correct techniques and materials must also have been used.

If any unlicensed work is discovered during the sale, you will have to apply for ‘retrospective permission’. You may also be expected to pay a fine, even if the alterations were made by a previous owner.

It’s advised that you obtain these documents as early as possible. The length of the selling process can greatly increase if any are missing. Some mortgage providers will also reject applications if the proper permissions aren’t in place.

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How to Find Out if My Building is Listed

The best way to find out if a building is listed is to use the listed buildings register for your country.

You can conduct a listed building search in England on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE). This list will highlight if your building is listed and at what grade. If you’re unsure, you can contact your local authority or the NHLE Helpdesk.

You can check listed buildings in Wales via Cof Cymru, an online service that has been developed by Cadw.

For listed buildings in Scotland, you check the Historic Environment Scotland site. In Northern Ireland, it is The Buildings Database via the Department for Communities.

Listed Building Consent (LBC)

When a building is listed there will be additional control over what changes can and can’t be made. The owner must apply for Listed Building Consent (LBC) before carrying out any work that could affect the historic interest.

First, check with your local authority Conservation Officer whether consent is required. If it is, apply for Listed Building Consent using the application on your local authority’s website.

The planning authority will inform you if your application has been refused or granted. They will consider the best ways of preserving the building and its features.

What Types of Work Do You Need Consent For on Grade II Listed Buildings?

You can complete general repairs and maintenance work, as long as you use the appropriate materials. Even small details such as original fittings and garden plants can be covered by the listing.

Here is some of the work you may require consent for when altering a listed building:

  • Repair work
  • Internal alterations
  • Renovations and extensions
  • Windows and original features
  • Garden renovations

Even if you’re unaware that the building is listed, it is still a criminal offence to complete unauthorised work. You could even be fined or sent to prison.

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What Can You Do to a Listed Building Without Permission?

You can maintain your listed building through traditional methods without requiring consent. This can include replacing appliances, re-painting walls or repairing sash windows. The maintenance work you complete must be done using like-for-like materials.

However, you will need special consent to alter or remove parts of the building and to complete major repair work. You will also need consent should you be planning an extension.

It’s important to note that Grade I listed buildings have more restrictions and will require consent for even the most minor work.

Finding a Surveyor

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Need a Removal Company?

Once your property transaction is complete, you will need to arrange a removal company. Our integrated comparison form allows you to compare quotes from surveyors and removal firms. In just a few extra steps, we will match you with up to 6 surveyors and up to 6 removal companies.

Learn More About Surveying

This is part of our guide to surveying. Next we explore listed building surveys. To learn more read: What is a Listed Building Survey? Buying a Listed Building


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