Modern life demands a very different approach to living from even 50 years ago. We help clients restore the very best features of their old or listed buildings, whilst introducing contemporary elements. Materials and techniques on older buildings can often differ from modern building methods. We look to strike a judicious balance between elements to achieve a harmonious result.
What Is A Listed Building?
Historic England lists buildings and structures of architectural and historic interest. The listing often describes features of special interest. The listing however will extend to the surrounding buildings, walls etc. within its curtilage. Altering a listed building without formal approval is a criminal offence. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance but changes should be very carefully considered and most works will require listed building consent, which is usually awarded by the relevant district or borough council.
You can either search The National Heritage List for England to find out if your property is listed or contact your local authority. They will also be able to tell you if the area you are interested in is a conservation area.
There are no general rules for what you can or can’t do without consent as each building is different. Consent is needed for anything that might detract from what makes that building special including the replacement of windows or doors, knocking down internal walls, painting over brickwork or altering fireplaces.
How Many Listed Buildings Are There In County Durham?
There are over 3,000 listed buildings in County Durham. 3% of these are designated Grade I meaning they are of exceptional interest. 5% are designated Grade II* – particularly important buildings of more than special interest. The majority of listed buildings are Grade II implying buildings of special interest.
You are obliged to keep it in good repair using original materials, which can be expensive. Altering or extending a listed building is a big challenge and there will be many restrictions on what you can and can’t do. That being said, national policy stipulates that, whilst listed building extensions must be sympathetic to the existing, they must be pastiche, in other words they must not be a copy of the existing. Grants may be available for repairs to highly listed buildings and alterations to some can also qualify for reduced VAT.
Extending Listed Buildings
We have a good track record of altering and extending listed buildings. The first step is to identify the features that make the building of special interest. The listing applies to the whole building – inside and out – and to the whole site around it so careful auditing is important. We then assess and schedule essential repairs that are needed (leaking roof, damp walls, rotting timbers) as these have to be submitted as part of any planning application. The next step is to look for parts of the structure which are out of character as a result of being badly altered, extended or repaired as it may be possible to remove and replace them to enhance the historic value of the building. Opportunities to extend and alter the building without damaging the historic fabric will be clearer by this point, and these then become our main focus.
Contemporary Extensions To Listed Buildings
Our success as listed building architects lies in our ability to design contemporary listed building extensions and alterations that respect the proportions and character of the existing building but maximise the opportunities for contemporary styling. We’ve successfully obtained planning permission to build extensions that are either separate from the existing building or linked to it by a small single storey glazed connection.
Extending Buildings In Conservation Areas
We have considerable experience of working in Conservation Areas. A conservation area is defined as an area of “special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. If a building is in a conservation area the council exercises general control over works including the demolition and partial demolition of unlisted buildings and some garden walls, some types of minor development that would not normally require planning permission and protected trees.