Getting a building spotlisted

Lists of designated buildings in England can be viewed online at Listed Buildings Online, as well as on most Local Authority websites. In Scotland list descriptions can be found on Historic Scotland's website. In Wales list descriptions can be found if the location is known, using CANMAP. For those without internet access, list descriptions should be available for public inspection at the district council or county planning offices, or via Cadw. Further copies may be held at the local public library. You can also view the English lists at the National Monuments Record, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2GZ. Alternatively call them on 01793 414600 and ask whether an individual building is listed. Provide them with as much information on the location of the building as possible - street, number, parish etc... and they aim to send you a response, including the list description if it is listed, within 24 hours.

The lists of listed buildings, though extensive, are often still far from comprehensive. The reason is simple. The criteria for listing have changed and broadened over the years to include more Victorian and Edwardian buildings, and subsequently, more twentieth century buildings. Increased recognition is now given to the different interests of particular building types, such as Nonconformist chapels, railway stations, warehouses, industrial buildings, hospitals and model housing.

The initial lists, for example, were complied in a hurry and many of the more remote buildings were left out. There are many fine buildings - where a plain exterior conceals fine Georgian rooms, for example, or where there is an interesting timber frame construction - that were also overlooked. 

However, since 2012, Historic England filters what it will look at to consider for listing according to strict criteria that can be found here.

These boil down to: whether it is a building type that they are currently looking at and has singled out as being vulnerable; whether it can be demonstrated that the building is under immediate threat; whether it has clearly been overlooked when the original list was compiled, and finally, if new evidence has come up about a building that was not considered the first time around.

In all circumstances a listed building has to be of NATIONAL importance. It is not enough, therefore, to demonstrate a building's local significance, however great that may be. See the Historic England website for further help and for the criteria for listing (which varies, for example, depending on the age of the building). This will help you assess quickly whether there is a chance of the building being listed. You should also refer to this DCMS document.

Good photographs are likely to make all the difference to your submission. This does not mean expensive professional photography. Good colour snaps are fine as long as you get the building in focus, take it in sunlight rather than shadow and stand far enough back to ensure the whole building is in the picture. In addition, consider taking one or two photographs to show the buildings immediate context. These will be useful in any event in explaining to people what the problem is and discussing what the possibilities of reuse are. You also need to include a copy of a map marking the location of the building.

Historic information

When you apply to have a building spot listed you should supply details of its history if possible, and if time is available, including who built it and designed it. For many buildings under threat there may be no obvious immediate source of information. Therefore talk to everybody who might know the building or have lived or worked there. Find out who owned it. Find a local historian, local history study group or architect who can help you in dating and describing it.

Go to the local library and see if there are any old street guides or directories that include the buildings. Sometimes you can trace it back year by year or decade by decade to its construction. Equally the local library or county record office may have early maps or plans, which will provided a clue to the buildings origin.

If the building was constructed in the 19th century, there is some possibility that the original planning application is still on file, complete with the architects original drawings. This is particularly likely with commercial buildings or larger houses in residential suburbs. It may take some perseverance to get the appropriate file brought out of store, but it is well worthwhile. Basically, the better researched the application, the more historical detail you have, the better chance of success you stand.

Your application for listing the building should be sent to:


Historic England - there are different addresses for each region. Refer to HE's Applying for Listing document.


Cadw, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NQ


Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SH.

In England, the DCMS will ask Historic England to send an inspector to asses the building. The inspector makes a report and recommends whether or not to add the building to the statutory list. It is then up to the Secretary of State to decided whether to accept the inspector's recommendation. You will be notified as to whether or not your application has been successful. The whole process is very slow - perhaps a few months - but can be very quick in real emergencies.

It is a good idea to get some conservation bodies to write to the Department of Culture Media and sport supporting the listing application as well, particularly the Georgian Group, Victorian Society, Twentieth Century Society or Historic Buildings and Places.

If the Secretary of State turns down the request for listing, there is an Appeal process, although in SAVE's experience this is rarely successful. However it is a way to continue to apply pressure within the campaign.