Conservation and heritage frequently asked questions

For information about planning applications see our Planning applications FAQs page

Conservation and heritage

1. I’m thinking of buying a listed building, what information is there?

Buying and living in a listed building can be extremely rewarding. However, it's important to bear in mind that older buildings differ from modern ones, and that you may not be able to change or extend it as you wish. Before you buy, we recommend you think about the additional considerations this might involve. See advice on Historic England’s website for more information on owning an older home.

2. How do I find out if my building is listed?

If you want to find out if a property is listed, the best place to check is the National Heritage List for England which is the statutory list maintained by Historic England on behalf of the Secretary of State. Enter the property’s postcode, or search using keywords, a list entry number, or using the interactive map. Each entry on the list has a brief description which is intended to help you identify the Listed Building and may tell you more about its age and construction.

You can also find Listed Buildings in Oxford using our LocalView address search:

  • Click the link above to access LocalView
  • Enter your address in the top left hand corner and click ‘search’
  • Select the address you’re interested in from the results list
  • Under ‘Local Information’ (the ‘i’ icon), select ‘Listed Buildings’

Please note that due to technical issues not all Listed Buildings are currently showing on LocalView. Please refer to the National Heritage List for England whilst we resolve this issue.

3. What parts of a building does listing cover?

It is a common misconception that listing only covers those parts of a building described in the National Heritage List for England listing description for the property. Actually, when a building is listed, all of the building itself, anything fixed to it, and also most buildings and structures in its grounds (known as ‘curtilage’) are part of the listing, unless specifically excluded in the list description. The inside as well as the outside of a building is listed.

4. Do I need consent to replace the windows on my Listed Building?  

Listed building Consent is normally required for replacement windows. Windows are one of the most important elements in a historic building as they contribute to your property’s character through their design, materials, and the workmanship they exhibit. As a rule, historic windows should be retained wherever possible using careful matching repair. Their complete replacement should be a last resort and is rarely necessary. If repair is beyond the skills of a good joiner or metal worker, an accurate copy should be made. You should seek advice from our planning advice service before replacing windows as Listed Building Consent is likely to be required.

5. Do I need consent to make internal alterations to my Listed Building?

Listed Building Consent is usually required to make internal changes to the building and changes may also require building regulation approval. The historic plan form or room layout within a building helps to tell the story of its use and of social and design conventions over time. Furthermore, the construction and materials used in historic partition walls are often of interest in their own right, and may also provide structural support. Demolishing historic walls and changes to the layout can diminish the building’s character and heritage significance and should generally be avoided. For further advice, please use our planning advice service.

6. I want to install a new bathroom / kitchen in my Listed Building, do I need consent?

Historic features such as fireplaces and old kitchen ranges are protected under the listing and should be retained. Replacing modern sanitary ware or kitchen cupboards in existing locations does not normally require consent. However, the introduction of a new bathroom/en-suite or kitchen/kitchenette and internal plan form changes to accommodate these will require Listed Building Consent. Should you need to alter or install new mechanical, electrical or plumbing services this will require Listed Building Consent, and careful consideration should be given to avoid affecting the appearance of the building and to minimize disruption to historic fabric. For further advice, please use our planning advice service.

7. I want to install central heating / air conditioning / change the boiler in my Listed Building, do I need consent?

It is important to ensure that new flues and extracts do not detract from the building’s appearance and these will usually require listed building consent. Listed Building Consent is unlikely to be required for replacement boilers and central heating n existing locations, but if your work involves new cabling or pipework this will likely require consent. For further advice, please use our planning advice service.

8. I want to improve the energy efficiency of my Listed Building, how can I do this?

Improving the energy efficiency of your building can be done sympathetically and without compromising its historic character. The best approach is to look at your whole home, its own environment, construction, condition and historic significance. You need to know all the factors that affect energy use in order to devise your own energy efficiency strategy for your home. Getting energy efficiency measures wrong or doing them badly can result in damage to the historic building and its fabric, and potential harm to your health. It may also fail to achieve predicted energy or cost savings. Depending on the measures, Listed Building Consent may be required.

The Oxford Heritage and Energy Efficiency Tool (HEET) has been developed to help owners assess potential energy efficiency improvements for their historic buildings. Further information and guidance can also be found on Historic England’s website.

9. I want to extend my Listed Building, how do I do this?

Your home may have already been extended and/or altered over its lifetime, or it may have been built in one go. When considering the possibility of an extension and how this might be successfully achieved it’s important to start with an understanding of the origins of the building and how it may have changed or evolved over time. It is also important to understand the building’s architecture and to be aware of how it sits within its garden or surroundings - its ‘setting’ - which may include neighbouring or ancillary buildings.

There are some cases where extension will not be appropriate, but, where this may be acceptable in principle, extensions should not dominate the building in location, size, form or detailing. This tends to mean that the extension should be smaller and lower than the main building and sited in such a manner as to defer to the importance of the main building. Where a building has already been extended, any cumulative impact as a result of successive extension should not be overpowering. It is important that the original building remains clearly legible and remain the principal or primary element.

Planning permission and Building Regulations approval may be required to extend your house. In addition, Listed Building Consent will be required. It is strongly recommended that you seek pre-application advice before submitting a formal application because this will allow you to discuss your proposals with us and where necessary make changes to the design.

10. I want to convert my loft in my Listed Building, can I do this?

Making use of empty or underused attic space may seem like an obvious choice to increase living space in your building. However, roofs are frequently the least altered spaces in a listed building and as a result often contain important and original fabric that offers valuable evidence and an insight into the origins of the building. Consequently alteration of this space is very likely to have implications on the architectural and/or historic special interest of your listed building.

Important things to consider when thinking about converting your loft include:

  • The age and degree of intactness of the roof structure;
  • What alterations will be required to achieve access and necessary headroom;
  • How the loft space would be connected to the floor below and how the addition of a staircase would affect the layout of spaces on the floor below, as well as any structural implications for the existing building;
  • How you will provide light and ventilation to the loft and the effect this will have on the appearance of your property.

If a loft conversion requires external alterations to your listed building it may also have implications for the significance of other heritage assets such as conservation areas, or the setting other nearby listed buildings.

Advice should be sought to ensure that proposals for lost conversions are sympathetic to the special interest and structure of the building. You will require Listed Building Consent, and it is likely that Building Regulations approval will also be required. It is strongly recommended that you seek pre-application advice before submitting proposals.

11. I want a new building in the garden of my Listed Building, can I do this?

There are no permitted development rights within the curtilage of a listed building, and any new structure – including outbuildings, sheds, garages, greenhouses, pools, gates, fences or any other means of enclosure - will require planning permission.

In general terms the ‘curtilage’ of a building is the area of land and the buildings that are around and associated with the principal building. However, the definition of curtilage when specifically applied to a listed building is complex and the facts of each case will need to be considered carefully.

12. I want to alter/convert/demolish an existing building in the garden of my Listed Building, can I do this?

Within the curtilage of a listed building, outbuildings, structures, walls and other features which pre-date 1948 are usually included within the listing protection. The general rule is that they should be retained. Listed Building Consent is required for the demolition or alteration of curtilage listed structures in addition to any planning requirements.

In general terms the ‘curtilage’ of a building is the area of land and buildings that are around and associated with the principal building. However, the definition of curtilage when specifically applied to a listed building is complex and the facts of each case will need to be considered carefully.

13. I need to find an architect or contractor to do works on my Listed Building, where can I find one?

Using a professional architect or surveyor with knowledge and experience of listed buildings can help you care for and manage your property appropriately. Accredited professionals can be found on the following websites:

14. How do I find out if my building is in a Conservation Area?

Oxford has 18 Conservation Areas at present. If you think that your building lies within one of these Conservation Areas but are unsure, the best place to check is our LocalView address search:

  • Click the link above to access LocalView
  • Enter your address in the top left hand corner and click ‘search’
  • Select the address you’re interested in from the results list
  • Under ‘Local Information’ (the ‘i’ icon), select ‘Conservation Areas’.

Further details and mapof each of our Conservation Areas also available to download on our website.

15. My a property is in a Conservation Area, what does this mean for me?

Conservation Areas exist to protect the special architectural and historic interest of a place – in other words the features that make it unique and distinctive. This makes Conservation Areas attractive places to live or work, and studies have shown that this value is reflected in the price of properties in Conservation Areas. They typically cost more and appreciate in price more than properties in other areas, even after adjusting for location and other factors.

In order to protect the special architectural and historic interest of a Conservation Area, some extra planning controls will apply to that area. These are most likely to affect owners who want to work on the outside of their building or any trees on their property. For more information on Conservation Areas and how they are managed, please see our advice page on Conservation Areas.