Last week we had a great opportunity to participate in a seminar on the very current (for us) subject of working on historic buildings. Since many of you have a lot of doubts and uncertainty while buying new homes, here are 4 vital bits of information that can help you understand what it actually means to work with historic buildings.
- A lot of buildings in London are listed. For those of you who are from London, that’s probably not news, but for those who have just moved here, you will certainly find it to be true. There is a large group of houses that are historical in some way, and may have restrictions in terms of the work you can actually conduct both inside and outside. In England there are over 350,000 listed buildings, which means there is a great chance you’ll fall in love with one of them.
- Check before buying. Get to know your building (or your dream home) before you purchase it. Not only might the building itself may be a listed property, but it may be situated within conservation area, or have parts of it i (e.g. a garden fountain) listed in their own right.There are 3 grades of listed building, but 90% of them are Grade II, which means ‘they are of special interest’.
- Where to look for information? There are a number of websites, institutions and guides you can use to look for necessary information regarding the historic buildings. You need to do research and analyse the building itself. There are several people who may help you with that work: (e.g. historic building and heritage consultants, conservation architects) You may even need to have the construction engineer visit the site.
- Why do we preserve it? Well, it is a bit of history that is stored there, and it may be that those amazing features were what made you purchase it in the first place. Obviously, there are some features ( e.g. windows) which could make the house difficult to live in, so it is no surprise that you would like to change them. Just remember to get in touch with the officer and explain why you need them to be changed and how you will impact the building/buildings. Providing a detailed and through explanation of planning changes may help convince an office to let you introduce those works after all.
Here are some helpful questions presented by Jen Austin, which can help you start the process.
- Will you need a listed building consent?
- Are you working on historic building in a conservation area?
- What documents will you need to support your planning permission?
- Who can help you?
- Communication/pre-planning is key! *
The main advice and message from the seminar was that communication is the most important thing. Remember, get in contact with the conservation officer as soon as possible to discuss any changes you’d like to make in the building, get to know your building before deciding on the work you would like to conduct, and try to preserve what you fell in love with in the first place.
*Jen Austin, Working on historic building lecture