Listed Building Architects
The lifestyle needs and aspirations of a 21st century family are very different to those of a family 500 or even 50 years ago. We help clients improve their lifestyle by restoring the very best features of their old or Listed building, whilst introducing contemporary elements that make it fit for another 500 years of family life. Good conservation requires the judicious balancing of priorities and the courage to adopt bold, innovative design.
What Is A Listed Building?
Listing is a way of identifying buildings that should be celebrated, preserved and enhanced for their architectural and historic interest. They can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance but changes should be very carefully considered and most works will require listed building consent.
You can either search The National Heritage List for England to find out if your property is listed or contact your local authority. They will also be able to tell you if your home is in a conservation area.
There are no general rules for what you can or can’t do without consent as each building is different. Consent is needed for anything that might detract from what makes that building special including the replacement of windows or doors, knocking down internal walls, painting over brickwork or altering fireplaces.
How Many Listed Buildings Are There In Kent And Sussex?
There are 17,000 listed buildings in Kent. 2.3 % of these are designated Grade I meaning they are of exceptional interest; 5.2% are designated Grade II* and 91.4% are Grade II.
When you buy a listed building in Kent or Sussex you are effectively agreeing to act as the custodian of a piece of the nation’s architectural heritage. You are obliged to keep it in good repair using original materials, which can be expensive. Altering or extending a listed building is a big challenge and there will be restrictions on what you can and can’t do.
Understanding The Significance Of A Listed Building
Before starting any design work, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the significance of the listed building and its setting. This informs the analysis of what there is of value that should be retained and what potential there is for change.
The starting point is a Historic Asset Appraisal, prepared by a specialist historic buildings consultant, that records the history and significance of the building. It will also identify any later changes that might be harming the setting of the building and can identify areas where change may be possible to enhance the building.
In some cases it may be relatively easy to add a further addition, however in other cases it may already have been extended to such a degree that further extension is impossible because it would harm the character or setting. It is also worth exploring the option of removing more any recent additions of low design quality and replacing them.
The Client’s Role
Owning a listed building is a big responsibility. Altering or extending one, equally so. It requires a client that is prepared to commit to the time and cost of getting the design right as well as to the higher construction cost associated with work to listed buildings.
The road to obtaining consent is uncertain and there are often abortive design approaches. Clients need to be flexible about how their meet needs are met and be patient to endure the long timescales required for the proper assessment of the building’s significance, the design work needed and the time that local authorities need to assess proposals.
Extending A Listed Building In Kent And Sussex
We have a proven track record of altering and extending listed buildings in Kent and Sussex. The first step is to identify the features that make the building of special interest and how the architectural massing has developed over time. The listing applies to the whole building – inside and out – and to the whole site around it so careful auditing is important. We also look for parts of the structure which are out of character as a result of being badly altered, extended or repaired as it may be possible to remove and replace them to enhance the historic value of the building. Opportunities to extend and alter the building without damaging the historic fabric will be clearer by this point, and these then becomes our main focus.
We also look at opportunities to enhance listed buildings, sometimes by taking away previous changes that are causing visual harm. We have recently obtained planning consent for changes mainly because we incorporated a glass roof that opened a view of the original rear wall of the building that had been concealed by previous changes.
Most listed buildings have been changed over the years to accommodate different uses and ownership reflecting their social history, both at an individual and collective level. Just because a building is listed does not mean it should be frozen in time, but changes need to made in a well informed and intelligent way that maintain its heritage value.
The key policy is contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development. It requires that proposals should conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations. It also acknowledges that account should be taken of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses.
Contemporary Extensions To Listed Buildings
Our success as listed building architects lies in our ability to design contemporary listed building extensions and alterations that respect the character of the existing building but maximise the opportunities for contemporary design. We’ve successfully obtained planning permission to build extensions that are separate from the existing building or linked to it by a small single storey glazed connection or firm new bays added t the existing. The size of the extension depends on many factors but in one instance we have obtained permission for an extension that is nearly as big as the whole ground floor of the existing house.
There are three main design approaches that we use.
This approach takes the profile, massing, bay rhythm, scale and proportion of the existing building as design cues, but without replication of the details. This can allow quite substantial additions to some buildings without detracting from the character of the original.
In this approach the new becomes a self-effacing backdrop to the old. Even if it is large, it is not assertive and might be achieved by reflective glass for example.
This approach creates a new building that is more or less equal to the old. The objective is to create a combination of new and old that has greater lasting value than either on its own. This demands high quality design to meet the challenge set by the quality of the existing building.
Extending Buildings In Conservation Areas
We also have considerable experience of working in Conservation Areas. A conservation area is defined as an area of “special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. If a building is in a conservation area the council exercises general control over works including the demolition and partial demolition of unlisted buildings and some garden walls, as well as some types of minor development that would not normally require planning permission and protected trees.