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Purchasing a Listed Building in Scotland

Purchasing a Listed Building in Scotland

When searching for a new home, do you find yourself drawn to, unique, charismatic, older, and characterful properties? If so, then you may find yourself falling in love with a listed building.

Listed buildings enhance Scotland’s charming landscape and stand as reminders of great parts of the country’s history and rich heritage. All different shapes, sizes, and kinds of properties can be listed, ranging from city centre townhouses, old schools, cottages, and farmhouses to large stately homes, castles, and churches. Owning a historic castle, stately home, or other listed buildings is like owning your own little part of history and these properties often seem to be brimming with potential. While these properties can indeed make charming homes, there are some things to be aware of before buying a listed property in Scotland.

As with all other things in life, owning a listed building comes with both its pros and cons. Some of the advantages of owning a listed building include potentially being eligible for government grants to help pay for repairs and restoration works. Period builds often have well-proportioned rooms and traditional features such as large fireplaces and large bay windows. However, many listed buildings are old, meaning that they may need some extra TLC and updating in order to be fit for modern family living. This could not only cost significant amounts of money and time but in order to alter or extend a listed building, specific consents must be obtained from your local planning authority and sometimes particular tradesmen and materials must be used.

Listed buildings in Scotland are placed into one of three categories according to their relative importance:

  • Category A – This is the highest-ranking listed building category in Scotland. These are buildings of national or international architectural or historic importance. These properties remain largely unaltered and are outstanding examples of a particular period, style, or building type.
  • Category B – These are buildings of regional or outside local importance in terms of their special architectural or historic value. These buildings may have been altered; however, they stand as major examples of a particular period, style, or building type.
  • Category C – These are buildings of local importance due to their special architectural or historic value. They are representative examples of a period, style, or building type and they are often as originally constructed, or moderately altered.

In Scotland, there are more than 47,000 listed buildings across the country, and approximately only 8% percent fall under Category A, 60% fall under Category B, and the remaining 32% fall under Category C.

If you are buying a listed building with an intention to repair, alter or extend it, then this is where problems could potentially arise. However, even if this is not your initial intention, as the owner of a listed building, you will be responsible for its ongoing upkeep, repair and maintenance.

Now, just because a property is listed does not mean that it must remain the same way forever, it simply means that the history and special character of the building are to be considered when changes are being planned. Accordingly, if you are seeking to make changes to a listed building, that the relevant planning authority feels may affect its character, then you will need to obtain listed building consent (LBC).

LBC is used by planning authorities in Scotland to ensure that any changes made to listed buildings are appropriate and sympathetic to their original character. It is important to note that LBC is separate and distinct from planning permission, and that both may be required for any intended works to listed buildings. To demolish, materially alter or extend a listed building without LBC would constitute a criminal offence that could result in a maximum of two years imprisonment, a hefty fine, or both.

Therefore, if you wish to demolish (all or part), alter (internally or externally), or extend a listed building, it is vital that you obtain LBC from your local planning authority. It is possible that even if you only wish to undertake minor works, such as changing windows and external doors, you may still require LBC. Like-for-like repairs may not require LBC, however, Historic Environment Scotland recommends that you obtain confirmation of this from your local planning authority before undertaking any work to a listed building.

If LBC is granted, then it is crucial that you comply with all the relevant conditions attached and that you conduct all work in accordance with the drawings submitted as part of the LBC application. Compliance with these requirements ensures that the character, uniqueness and attractiveness that you were originally drawn too, is protected throughout time.

Becca King

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