Having the opportunity of owning a listed building is, undoubtedly, a very rewarding experience, as they are special and usually have plenty of stories to tell.
However, it may also be a challenge, primarily if it is not understood what makes them special.
In Edinburgh, there are over 4,500 listed buildings, many of which, are private homes and dwellings.
As an indication, around 75% of the buildings included within World Heritage Site area, which comprises the Old Town, New Town, Dean Village and West End Conservation Areas, are listed buildings.
The owner of a listed building, as it would be with any other building, is responsible for its repair and maintenance but it also has the duty of caring for a piece of history and enabling its safe transition to future generations. Being the owner of a listed building is being the guardian or the steward of a built heritage asset.
When we own a listed building a part of the history becomes part of our life and, at the same time, our life becomes part of the story of the building and therefore part of the history.
Sometimes, we may need to renounce some modern living standards, but, to look at it another way, we have the privilege of enjoying something special and unique.
Living in a listed building is about enjoying it in a way that meets your needs without compromising its character.
Limitation or advantage?
An owner of a listed building will sometimes have to deal with lots of challenges to ensure the building survives in a good condition. This is normally achieved through an appropriate maintenance strategy, which should include a number of regular basic works such as clearing gutters, stopping leaks or repairing windows so that the building is kept wind and watertight.
The principal constrains arise when major repairs are required or when some renovation or alteration works are planned for example.
Listed building consent is not normally required for like-for-like repairs to a listed building, although professional advice before starting any work is highly recommended.
However, consent from the local planning authority must be obtained whenever demolition or alteration work that may affect the character of the building is intended, such as building an extension, removing or replacing doors and/or windows and alterations to the interior fabric, and it is a criminal offence to undertake such work without consent.
This applies regardless of the category of listing (A, B or C) and whether work affects the inside or outside of the property.
Listed Building Consent is applied for in the same way that planning permission is applied for, by submitting an application form explaining the proposed work usually with accompanying drawings.
However, the best way to ensure success with your application is putting it in hands of an expert professional and a good starting point is often a chartered building surveyor with experience of historic buildings.
They will be able to advice on the viability of the proposed work and provide you with feasible alternatives, helping you at the same time to understand what makes your building special.
Furthermore, as they understand traditional construction details and methods as well as how traditional materials perform, they will be able to advise on the appropriate repairs and maintenance, as well as specify the adequate materials to ensure they are compatible with the existing and good match.
The professional team at GLM will be able to provide you with a valuable advice on the special considerations and implications that apply when you are planning to undertake repairs, alterations or renovation works.
Next week we will speak about: what does being listed mean?
Antonio Cabello, Chartered Building Surveyor