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Do I need listed building consent? And how a Certificate of lawfulness could help

If you own a listed building or have worked on one before, you’ll be aware that sometimes you need permission from the local or district council to do work. What would be straightforward for a regular house, might need extra thought in a listed home. Aside from planning permission, a listed building might need listed building consent for external and or internal works.

So, can I be certain that I can carry out the work without consent? Your listed building expert could clarify for you the different case scenarios when permission is required, you can refer to this article for further details. But at the end of the day, it is the council’s decision for each case. If they consider the works risk harming the significance of the building, they will request the submission of a Listed Building Consent.

So how a Certificate of lawfulness could help?

Receiving a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works confirms that the works described in the documents submitted don’t require a listed building consent. And therefore, you can carry out those proposed works without the risk of committing criminal offence or receiving and enforcement order to reinstate the original condition.

In other words, this is a legal document that certifies that those specific works are lawful and won’t affect the character of the building.

Drone image of a slate roof terrace
Copyright ER Group London

How can a Certificate of lawfulness make a difference?

The Certificate of lawfulness was introduced into the planning law in 2013 (section 26A to 26k, LBA 1990). The objective was to alleviate the workload of the planning authorities for applications related to works to listed buildings that are clear from causing harm to the character of the building.

An application for a listed building consent implies the submission of numeral documents, from reports to existing and proposed drawings. All of which require to be understood and analyzed to decide if the proposed alterations affect the particular historic or architectural value of that listed building.

It makes sense that if the works are clearly not making any difference on the character of a listed building, why would the homeowner have to go through the expense of time and money to obtain detailed reports and drawings? Instead, providing just the key information to explain the proposal should suffice to ensure the planning authorities that the listed building is not at risk of harm. Allowing the homeowner to get their problem solved in a shorter period of time and making use of fewer documents.

Case study on Certificate of Lawfulness: roof replacement and repairs

Along this article, the images displayed belong to a listed building in Hackney. It had a leaking roof with fallen and decayed slates, past cement repairs, inappropriate leadworks, etc. The repairs were so extensive implied that replacement was the right path to guarantee a weathertight roof for 100 years more.

Certificate for roof replacement listed building
Copyright ER Group London
Certificate for roof replacement listed building
Copyright ER Group London

What are the benefits of a Certificate of lawfulness

When used in the right situation, a Certificate of lawfulness can offer the opportunity to start works on site earlier on than if applying for Listed Building Consent. For starters, the lead in time for response from the council is two weeks shorter than a regular application – a Certificate is 6 weeks, while a Listed Building Consent requires 8 weeks.

Moreover, this type of submission can also cut costs and time on the production of documents. For instance, you are not required to issue a heritage statement. That would be in the territory of a Listed building consent. The most important is to submit clear evidence that the proposed works won’t risk the character of the building.

Certificate for roof replacement grade II listed building

What do I need to submit a Certificate of lawfulness?

The first step to preparing the submission of a Certificate of lawfulness is downloading the relevant form. The ‘Application for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works to a Listed Building’ is available from the Planning Portal. This will give you a flavour of the different aspects you should cover. For instance, you’ll need to identify the listed building, its grade and its address.

Obviously, you’ll need to describe the proposal: existing and proposed materials, the reason for alterations, and very importantly, how the character of the building is not affected. The form also requires information on your relationship to the building – is it a tenancy or ownership? And you’ll need to notify any person affected by the proposal, for instance neighbours living in the same building. There is no fee associated with this submission, listed buildings are exempt in this case.

Case study on Certificate of Lawfulness: roof replacement and repairs

See below a snip of the documents issued for the Hackney case study

Form Certificate of Lawfulness
Section 6 Certificate of Lawfulness example
Example of filled in form. Header of form and Section 6
Proposed elevation noting materials
Proposed Front Elevation
Existing elevation grade II listed noting demolition in red
Existing Front Elevation

How does the process work?

Discuss with your listed building expert if this is the best option, as if not suitable for your project, this could backfire and you’ll end up, after all, applying for Listed Building Consent. Clarify your intentions with the council. You or your heritage consultant should also ask them if they prefer an email submission or a hard copy.

The Planning Portal requests issuing three hard copies, but most councils will be happy with one or even just a pdf sent via email. Then download the required form from the planning portal, prepare drawings, forms and any extra relevant piece of helpful information, like photos. And submit all the documents as your council requested.

Keep the communication open with the council during the process of validating the documents, in case they require any extra piece of evidence. Once you receive a validation letter, the clock starts counting towards the 6 weeks wait for a final answer. There is no statutory requirement for the council to consult Historic England, other entities or the public during this period, but they might if they consider it relevant.

If you are granted a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works, it will be valid for 10 years. Permission might be granted for the whole proposal, but it is also possible for some elements to be excluded.

Certificate for roof replacement listed building

Issues related with Certificate of lawfulness

Unfortunately, not all councils are familiar with this type of application. The requests for certificates for listed buildings are minimal compared to other applications. Therefore, you might get contradicting answers when discussing with different planners. For instance, they might question the need to pay a fee, ask for the submission of a heritage statement, or even notify for eight weeks’ lead for an answer instead of six.

Moreover, the planning portal does not accept online submissions for this application. Unlike planning applications and listed building consents, the request for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works (which shouldn’t be confused with Lawful Development Certificates, which do not apply to listed buildings) cannot be made using the online portal. This significantly complicates matters and can increase the lead times if having to send hard copies via mail. You should also note that a certificate cannot be requested retrospectively. All requests have to be for proposed works.

Modern double glazing sash


Opting for Certificate of Lawfulness must be strategic. You should assess the certainty of obtaining it. See if certificates have been granted previously by your council and for which type of works. Assess the risks and potential benefits. It might be that despite the perks offered by the Certificate, you prefer the certainty of a Pre-application. Or, if you are not in a rush, apply for a Listed Building Consent with more detailed documents that demonstrate how your proposal does not harm the character of your listed building.

Removed slates used twice grade II listed