Simple maintenance will not normally require approval even if your building is listed or located in a conservation area. However, formal consents or licences may be needed if necessary works to your historic building will involve:
- extensive repairs to or alteration of your building;
- the pruning or removal of established trees;
- excavations that may disturb archaeological deposits; or
- the disturbance of bats or other wildlife.
The following paragraphs outline the permissions that you may need to obtain before undertaking substantial work on your historic building. If you are in any doubt or have any questions, contact your local authority’s building conservation officer or planning department for guidance.
Planning permission and building regulations
If you are planning work on a historic building that goes beyond the realm of routine maintenance, planning permission and building regulation approval may need to be obtained from the local planning authority. If your building is listed, these should be sought at the same time as listed building consent . Listed building consent is additional to, and separate from, planning permission. The granting of planning permission will not necessarily mean that listed building consent will be granted. Your local building conservation officer or planning department will be able to advise you on how to proceed. Where denominations have ecclesiastical exemption from listed building control, please see the section on ecclesiastical exemption above.
Local planning authorities have the power to protect trees and woodlands in the interests of amenity by making tree preservation orders. This means that consent must be obtained from the authority before a tree can be cut down, topped or lopped. Many trees in conservation areas are the subject of tree preservation orders, but there is also special provision for trees in conservation areas which are not subject to tree preservation orders. Before you undertake any work to trees, be sure to contact your local planning authority.
Advice should be sought from the relevant regional archaeological trust if work on or around a historic building – drainage improvements, for instance – is likely to disturb buried archaeology. This is particularly relevant where a building is located close to a scheduled ancient monument. Any work that directly affects a scheduled ancient monument will require scheduled ancient monument consent and Cadw should be consulted at an early stage.
Many old buildings are used as bat roosts. Full protection is accorded to bats by UK legislation and European directives.They make illegal the intentional killing, injury or handling of any bat or the intentional damage, destruction or obstruction of access to any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection. Building maintenance and repairs can be undertaken with care, but a licence will be needed if work will disturb or harm bats, or cause damage or restrict access to their roosts. Moreover, certain chemicals are banned as they are harmful to bats.
If you suspect that your building is being used as a bat roost, seek advice from the Natural Resources Wales before undertaking any work, or using any timber treatment, fly killers or other chemicals near the possible roost. The Countryside Council for Wales will also be able to offer guidance on the application procedure for a bat licence.
For further information on bats in historic buildings, visit the website of the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT).
There may be occasions when you need help to maintain your building. Cadw is unable to recommend contractors, but here are a few simple tips to help you choose the right professional advisor, builder or craftsperson.
Architect or building surveyor
Not all architects and surveyors are used to working with historic buildings and traditional building techniques, so choose someone who:
- Has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience.
- Ideally, has had specialist training in building conservation.
- Belongs to an appropriate professional body, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Many professional advisors who regularly work with historic buildings are also members of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).
- Ideally, has been recommended to you. If not, you may want to ask the person for details of past projects that are similar to yours and arrange to visit the properties and speak to the owners.
As well as carrying out maintenance inspections on your behalf, an architect or building surveyor will be able to advise you on what needs to be done and how. If necessary, he or she can prepare a specification, seek competitive quotes from suitable builders, and oversee the project to ensure that it is carried out to an appropriate standard.
Although you will be charged a fee for this work, appointing a professional advisor for anything more than minor repairs may save you money in the long run by ensuring that only necessary work is carried out, that it is properly completed and that you are charged a fair price.
If you have difficulty finding a conservation architect or surveyor, the professional bodies should be able to advise you on suitable people working in your area. You could also ask the conservation officer in your local planning department for a recommendation.