Listed Property Owners – Costs and Grief of the Planning Process

The Listed Property Owners’ Club has led a Westminster parliamentary evidence session to help expose the significant planning problems faced by private listed building owners.

The Club rose to the challenge when Heritage Minister Michael Ellis agreed to attend a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Listed Properties to hear first-hand evidence of the rising costs and inconsistencies in the planning process.

The Club invited a powerful group of its members to London to put their case to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. Minister Ellis promised to explore solutions with key organisations after hearing of the problems they faced.

The Minister was given a grim warning that the sustainability of listed buildings was “becoming a great problem” with owners experiencing difficulties selling properties as “no one wants to know.”

Inconsistency across local authorities was the key theme of the meeting but owners also spoke of the length of time taken and the mounting cost of the planning process, inexperienced conservation officers giving poor advice and lack of communication between council departments.

The APPG, which the Club helped establish and for which it provides the Secretariat, hosted the meeting. It has now published a report setting out the postcode planning lottery faced by owners seeking to repair or enhance their properties.

APPG Chair, Craig Mackinlay MP for South Thanet, said: “This was an opportunity for a Government Minister to hear first-hand about the planning maze and the major inconsistences in the way local authorities treat applications for listed building consent. 

“These are significant challenges and they represent a heavy burden for owners – many of whom are not the wealthy people they are widely believed to be. Our report sets out an eight-point plan for tackling this postcode lottery.”

  • The recommendations for reform are:
  • An insistence on local authorities and the planning inspectorate abiding by consistent timescales as set down in the regulations
  • A new energy saving strategy for listed properties that is light touch and sensible
  • Standardised minimum professional training requirements for new conservation officers – through either Historic England (HE) or a professional body such as IHBC
  • An insistence that all local planning authorities (LPA) employ proper conservation expertise
  • HE guidelines to be rigorously followed by LPAs to remove inconsistency and subjectivity in decision making
  • Better co-ordination between LPA departments to prevent duplication and delay
  • A review of the of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 and the introduction of nationally set exemptions on minor works that do not require listed building consent
  • The introduction of a streamlined method for securing consent for minor works

The Minister told members of the Club: “There is an awful lot of grief that clearly comes with owning a listed building, but there is also a great deal of pleasure and pride in living in and helping to preserve those buildings. I very much recognise that when you own a listed building it opens up a new vista of responsibilities and expense for you.”

He will be discussing the issues raised with Historic England and in a subsequent letter to the APPG chair said his Department was exploring with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Historic England ways of resolving the challenges.

Martin Anslow of The Listed Property Owners’ Club said: “The Minister found the session and the personal stories of owners very valuable; our members brought home the real problems they face.  He has committed to following up the meeting with actions.

“The Club believes the reforms that we are proposing are sensible and practical. Introducing such changes would make a significant difference to thousands of listed property owners who are struggling to find a way through the current complex planning maze. We will be promoting these recommendations with MPs, Ministers and policy makers.

“I am pleased to see how the Club’s efforts to help owners has already been so fruitful and I look forward to developing further plans in the near future, particularly concerning VAT on maintenance to listed buildings.”

The Listed Property Owners’ Club Political Campaign for Owners
This evidence session is one-step in the Club’s ongoing Political Campaign for Owners. The aim of this campaign is to achieve a reduction in VAT to 5% on approved alterations and repairs, simplification of planning procedures and greater consistency in planning decisions. Those looking to support the Campaign can do so by becoming a member of the Club, with a portion of the membership fee used to fund the long term Campaign. More information about the Campaign can be found at https://www.lpoc.co.uk/campaign-for-owners/