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What is listed curtilage and how it affects my property?

Knowing if your building is listed is easy. All you need to do is to check Historic England’s List. However, as explained in previous articles, the listing of a building does not end with the elements noted in Historic England’s description. In the case of England, more recent list entries would clarify if a specific structure is not to be considered listed curtilage. But previous list descriptions, especially those predating 1986, tend to be quite general.

While it might be clear that all elements fixed to the building are protected by law. It is worth explaining that this legal protection can also extend to nearby buildings and other structures. Section 1.5 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 indicates that listing protection includes surrounding structures that have been part of the land of the listed building since before 1st July 1948.

Image showing the 1948 rule

When/why should I care about listed curtilage?

If you are buying or thinking of works in a historic building near a listed building, you better ensure your building is not listed curtilage. This is especially common in rural settings, where the land of a listed building can extend to a great distance. The same rule applies in urban areas like London. For instance, the protection of your listed building could apply to a privy or a garage not attached to your building or your boundary wall.

If your building is listed curtilage, permitted development rights might not be relevant. You’ll need listed building consent for demolition and alterations. Otherwise, you could be accused of a criminal offence if your works undermine the character of the listed building. For instance, when adding an extension or changing the windows.

There is no legal definition of curtilage, and the interpretation might not be straightforward in some situations. But if you are concerned, a heritage consultant can help, as archival research could clarify the peculiarities of your case.

Sketch different properties but listed protection affecting walls

How can I get certainty that is listed?

You can ask your local or district planning authority. However, this would not be legally binding and can cause confusion, raising concerns that the building is potentially listed curtilage. At the same time, further investigation might reveal it’s not.

In England, requesting a Certificate of lawfulness for the proposed works is a possibility. This does not apply retrospectively but will confirm if you require planning permission and listed building consent for your proposed work.

Another possibility is to ask for clarification from Historic England. The Enhanced Advisory Service can review the description of the listed building. A revised list entry would indicate which elements are part of the listing and the extent of the protection. But be aware this process can take an average of 12 weeks.


Sketch listed curtilage example

It is incorrect to consider that only the façade of a listed building is protected. To learn more about listed protection, visit the article: Do I need planning permission or listed building consent? 

Main points to understand if it is listed curtilage

The main points to consider to determine if a historic building is listed curtilage are:

  • Your building is or was part of the land of the listed building at the time it was listed
  • Your building has a physical connection with the listed building (i.e., a path or access)
  • Your building has a historic visual connection with the listed building
  • Your building was linked to the listed building by its function at the time of listing (or before)
  • Historic ownership connects your building and the adjacent listed building at the time of listing (or before)
Sketch example rural not listed curtilage

Buildings or structures with a marked boundary around them at the time of listing would indicate independence from the main building. Therefore, they might not be considered as curtilage of the listed building.

It is also good to note that the curtilage rule is not applicable in reverse. In some cases, structures like railings, mailboxes, gates or posts are listed in their own right. And this does not imply protection for buildings immediate or adjacent to them.

listed structure: Cattle trough reused as planter

This cattle trough in Lambeth is listed, but that doesn’t mean the building behind it benefits from the listing.


Understanding listed curtilage is not easy, the ultimate response is in the hands of the Courts, and general rules are challenging. However, requesting the Court to clarify if your historic building is part of a listed curtilage is impractical.

The first approach is to check if your building falls into any of the points mentioned. You can engage a heritage consultant if you are unclear or want certainty but don’t want to get involved with long processes.

A listed building expert, like Historic Building Studio, could also help with further steps, like discussions with Historic England to improve the listing description or with the local authorities for a Certificate of lawfulness. You can book a free 15min consultation or a home consultation to discuss your case. 

Sketch example rural listed curtilage