Frequently Asked Questions

What is a listed building?

The Welsh Government, under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, is required by law to compile lists of buildings of special architectural or historic value. The lists are used to help planning authorities make their decisions with the interests of the built heritage clearly identified. While the listing of a building is not a bar to future change, it places on local planning authorities the requirement to ‘have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses’.

There are 6,426 chapels in Wales, 867 of which are listed. This equates to approximately 2.9% of Wales’s total number of listed buildings. They vary greatly in type and age from simple country chapels to elaborate urban examples.

Listed chapels are split into three categories according to their relative importance. All categories share the same level of protection.

Grade I are “Buildings of exceptional interest”

In Wales, only 5 listed chapels are this grade, including Peniel Chapel Tremadog.

Grade II* are “Buildings of more than special interest”

In Wales, 74 listed chapels are of this grade, e.g. Bethania Chapel Maesteg

Grade II are “Buildings of special interest”

In Wales, 788 listed chapels are this grade.

Why are buildings listed?

Buildings are listed because the Welsh Government considers that they are of special architectural or historic interest, and as such statutory recognition of their importance is required.

Fundamentally, listing gives individual buildings special protection in planning law, most recently the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, supplemented by guidance in Welsh Office Circulars 61/96 and 1/98.

This will protect and preserve them as part of our heritage for the benefit of future generations.  It does not mean that listed buildings are not able to change as they respond to the needs and uses of the time. Listing is not intended to mothball a building. Certain listed structures need to be conserved ‘as found’, but underpinning the planning legislation is the belief that the long term interests of a historic building are best served by it remaining in use: although often the best use is the one for which it was designed.  Listing tries to ensure that if any changes are necessary they respect and retain those qualities and characteristics that make the building special.

All buildings considered for listing are judged according to a set of national standards set out in Welsh Office Circulars 61/96 and 1/98. They can be viewed at cadw.wales.gov.uk.

What does listing mean?

Listing means that when a building is included on a Listed Building Register, it is necessary to apply for ‘Listed Building Consent’ from the Local Planning Authority before carrying out works which would affect the building’s character.

Even relatively minor works, such as painting, may affect the character of a listed building and it is therefore advisable to consult the Local Planning Authority before starting such works if there is any doubt.  The points of contact within the department are listed at the end of this advice note.

Under Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, it is a criminal offence to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend such a building in a way which would affect its character, without consent, and the penalties for this can be heavy.

The current penalty for conviction in a magistrates’ court is a fine of up to £20,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months (or both), whilst on conviction in the Crown Court, an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to two years (or both) may be imposed.  In determining the amount of any fine, a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court must have regard to any financial benefit which has accrued or may accrue from the offence.

Is my building listed?

Your Local Planning Authority will hold a record of all listed buildings; alternatively they may be viewed on the Historic Wales Portal

To determine if a building is listed you can contact the Authority’s Historic Building Conservation Officer who will be able to provide you with the information you require as well as copies of the lists.

The lists are used to help planning authorities make decisions with the interests of the historic environment clearly identified. Whilst the assessment of buildings for listing is undertaken by Cadw, the Local Planning Authority has primary responsibility for decision making in relation to works to listed buildings.

How much of my building is listed?

All of the building is listed including all the interior and exterior and any object within the grounds of the building.

It is a common misunderstanding that listing only applies to the outside of a building; internal fittings also form part of the listing.

A listed building as described by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 includes ‘any object or structure fixed to the building and any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1 July 1948.’

Although listing applies to the whole building, the list description is only intended to identify the property, and just because a feature of the building is not mentioned in the list description, this does not mean it is not listed.

See Cadw for further information on What is Listing?

What are my responsibilities?

Owners of listed buildings have responsibilities for their upkeep and repair which are described under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Most owners and occupiers recognise listed buildings as part of our heritage and are pleased and proud to maintain their properties.  Where it appears to the Local Planning Authority that the building is not being properly maintained, it can serve a notice (Building Repairs/Urgent Works Notice) on the owner requiring necessary works to be undertaken within a specific time.

Listed buildings that are deliberately neglected by their owners can ultimately be compulsorily purchased by the council and minimal compensation paid.  If the property is unoccupied, the Authority can undertake the works to protect the building itself and then recover the costs from the owner.  These measures are seen as last resorts by both the Welsh Government and the Authority and it is hoped that through constructive dialogue they will be rarely necessary.

Can a building be de-listed?

The Welsh Government is prepared to review listings in the light of new evidence.

There is no formal appeal procedure, but owners or others who believe that a listing should be reconsidered should send the evidence to Cadw, together with photographs of the building and a location plan.  The evidence must relate only to the special architectural or historic interest ascribed to the building.

How do I obtain listed building and or planning consent?

Application forms will be available on request from your Local Authority’s Planning Department, or can be downloaded from their website.

List of Local Authorities

Listed Building Consent will normally be required in addition to Planning Permission, although no fee is required for Listed Building Consent.

Applicants for Listed Building Consent must be able to justify their proposals.  They will need to show why works which would affect the character of a listed building are desirable or necessary, and include this as a written justification statement in their application.  They should provide the Authority with full information, to enable assessment of the likely impact of the proposals on the special architectural or historic interest of the building, and on its setting.

Unlisted religious buildings

These form the majority (?%) of this type of building,  and apart from their importance to their users, are often familiar landmarks. Some Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) maintain lists of ‘locally important buildings’ which may include a number of unlisted religious buildings. Other LPAs have a policy-based approach placing importance on preserving the character of such buildings when considering proposals for development. Pre-application discussions with the LPA should raise the relevant planning-related issues for consideration.

When do I need Listed Building Consent?

Repairs:

Works of maintenance or repair do not usually need consent provided that the materials, detailing, and finished effect match the original work exactly.

With listed buildings emphasis should always be placed on repair rather than replacement.  Where repair of an item is not feasible, replacement should be on a like for like basis using traditional methods and techniques, but this should be a last option and Listed Building Consent may be required.

Demolition:

Listed Building Consent is required for demolition work.

While it is an objective of Government policy to secure the preservation of historic buildings, there will very occasionally be cases where demolition is unavoidable.  Listed building controls ensure that proposals for demolition are fully scrutinised before any decision is reached.  There are many outstanding buildings for which it is inconceivable that consent for demolition would ever be granted.  The demolition of any Grade I or Grade II* building should be wholly exceptional and should require the strongest justification.

Alterations:

Listed Building Consent is required for any work which affects the character of a listed building.

A general principal is that alterations should aim to be reversible so that a building can be put back to it original form at a later date if necessary.  Applicants for Listed Building Consent must be able to justify their proposals.  They will need to show why works which would affect the character of a listed building are desirable or necessary. Examples of works typically requiring listed building consent include demolition; extensions; alterations to roofs; windows and doors; internal alterations; painting previously undecorated walls, and the demolition of chimneys and boundary walls.

Further information can be found within Cadw Listed Building Consent Booklet

Do churches or chapels require LBC?

Ecclesiastical buildings are fully subject to planning control, but many ecclesiastical buildings which are for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes and have an approved monitoring system are exempt from listed building controls

Ecclesiastical exemption does not apply to the residences of ministers of religion.  The context of the exemption is provided by an undertaking that historic church buildings are subject to a separate system of control which takes account of their historical and architectural importance.  The “Ecclesiastic Exemption: What it is and how it works (September 1994)” provides full information on the subject.

Except in so far as the Secretary of State provides otherwise by Order under 60(5) and 75(7) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Ecclesiastical exemption

Listed buildings in the ownership of six ‘exempted’ denominations do not have to follow the secular Listed Building Consent process.  Instead Cadw has agreed with each denomination that they may approve alterations to listed places of worship according to controls put in place by that denomination. The basis for the exemption enjoyed by each of the approved denominations in Wales is that each has in place internal processes which provide a measure of scrutiny over proposed works at least as good as the equivalent secular controls operated through local planning authorities. This is known as ecclesiastical exemption and the ‘exempted’ denominations in Wales are:

  • The Church in Wales
  • The Church of England
  • The Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Baptist Union of Wales
  • The Roman Catholic Church
  • The United Reformed Church
  • The Methodist Church

Other denominations (including Calvinistic Methodists/Presbyterians, Unitarians, Independents/Congregationists (and Baptist Chapels where either Baptist Union is not a trustee) are subject to full planning and listed building control.

Once a listed chapel is formally declared redundant, or has been converted to another use, full listed building control applies.

Details of exemption and the controls operated by the respective denominations are contained in ‘The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994’ and ‘The Ecclesiastical Exemption – What is it and How it Works’ respectively.  The ecclesiastical exemption arrangements in Wales were reviewed in 2004 and there is a need to make changes to the current Order to mirror changes already introduced in England which – subject to the wishes of a new Government in Wales – Cadw intends to take this forward to consultation at the end of the year.

Denominational links

How do I apply for LBC?

Applications should be made on a form provided by the local authority. The need for the works must be justified. A properly documented application should show why works that would affect the character of a listed building are desirable or necessary. It must provide the local planning authority with full information, to enable it to assess the likely impact of the proposals on the building and its setting. There is no provision for consent to be granted in outline. Where there is uncertainty about the need for consent, it would be advisable to contact the local planning authority before preparing detailed plans to avoid incurring unnecessary costs. In addition, it may be appropriate to consult or employ an architect or surveyor with conservation experience. The Royal Institute of British Architects or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will be able to supply lists of suitable architects or surveyors.

What about VAT?

Repairs to all buildings, whether listed or not, are subject to VAT.  However, the Government’s listed Places of Worship Scheme makes grants towards VAT incurred in making repairs and carrying our alterations to listed places of worship – insert link

What is the role of Cadw and your local planning authority?

Cadw is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, and in certain cases where a local planning authority intends to grant listed building consent, it must notify Cadw of the application before doing so.  Cadw has a statutory period of 28 days from receipt of the application to decide whether to refer the application back to the planning authority for determination or give notice that further time is required in which to consider if the application should be ‘called in’ if it gives rise to issues of exceptional significance or controversy.

Some Local Planning Authorities have ‘delegated powers, whereby they are able to determine the majority of listed building applications themselves.

Disabled access?

The DDA intends that disabled people should be able to use historic buildings in the same way as everyone else. Research by the Disability Rights Commission suggests that most changes can be undertaken with minimal cost and inconvenience. Many alterations may cost nothing at all if they are built into the maintenance cycle. For example, changing the colour scheme to benefit visually impaired people will cost nothing if the change is accommodated in the repainting maintenance cycle.

In practice, providing access to all means that owners should aim to adapt buildings to allow disabled people to do the following —

Use the same routes as everyone else.

A disabled person ideally should not be obliged to enter via an alternative entrance such as at the rear of the building, and circulation within the public areas of the building should be possible for all visitors.

Use the building independently

A disabled person should not be obliged to ask for help in getting into or around a building, though of course help should be provided if requested.

Use the facilities offered in the building in the same way as others.

A disabled person should not be deprived of the use of a facility because the service provider believes that it would inconvenience others or assumes wrongly that a safety risk would be created.

However …

The legal requirement to preserve the character of an historic building may mean that on rare occasions not all of these objectives can be achieved. For example, the interventions necessary to permit every part of a ruined medieval castle to be fully accessible would be so harmful to its character as to destroy the pleasure of visiting the building for all.

See Cadw for further information on Overcoming the Barriers