How Important Is Your Property?

The general trend in heritage theory is towards constructive conservation – the preservation of assets in ‘a manner appropriate to their significance’. This moves away from the proscriptive processes that have held sway for so long. Nonetheless, the report on your property must respect one of several recognised formats or else be swatted back at you as inadequate in its provision of knowledge.

Owners must be aware that the alteration of the standing building is treated as an archaeological activity from the point of view of the planning process. The need for planning permission must always be taken into consideration, and the local council is free to withhold permission even where no formal listing or zoning exists. It often comes as a surprise to the owner to learn that when a building is listed, this covers everything in it, regardless of age or percieved significance. One person’s dilapidated old shed might be another’s heritage asset, an asset which requires (at the least) that a record is made for future generations. Aesthetic considerations are no longer the sole consideration.

A property may have minimal or multiple listings. It may have ‘permissive development rights’, in which case agreed minor changes are not an issue. On the other hand, it may be subject to one or more categories of protection, such as the listing of the building itself, or the nature of the ‘local plan’ of the land (for instance if the building is within a conservation area, historic battlefield, etc.).

‘Listing’ used to be just that and no more. Old listings were often made on the basis of a cursory and sometimes inaccurate ‘drive-by’ inspection, the only record a yellowing index card – if that! De-listing may be seen as one way around the problem but this is not an easy process. Listing is not intended to prevent all change but to ensure the sensitive management of change. Consent to change listed buildings may be given if it is justified and combined with historically sensitive design, materials and methods*.

Below-ground interventions will add archaeological conditions to the planning permission. With a well-constructed heritage statement it will be much easier for the planning authority to begin the process by issuing a written scheme of investigation (WSI).

If you are planning changes to a property, the gathering of relevant data is a good first step, and may help speed up the planning process. To this end, it is worth commissioning an accurate study of your listed building pre-emptively if you are planning interventions above or below-ground.

* Dr Samuel cannot act as an advocate for the client in disputes. While every effort is made to provide detailed and accurate information, he cannot be held responsible for errors or inaccuracies in reports.

Doomed Kentish farmhouse
A doomed early-19th century Kentish farmhouse