Self-Build Plot Pitfalls – The Threat of Listed Building Status

by Mike Hardwick
10th June 2013

I’ve often said that time spent planning is never wasted. Taking the opportunity to establish what you want, what you can have and how you’re going to pay for a project will often reward you with a much smoother ride.

While self-building is a satisfying experience, which can also be a lot of fun, no-one who has gone through the process will tell you it’s easy. No matter how carefully you plan you need to be ready for the unexpected. What I refer to as ‘stuff’ will turn up on every build.

This recently happened to one my clients. To set the scene, we were all ready to replace an existing house in the Home Counties with a lovely new build. Planning and Building Regulations and demolition of the existing structure had all been approved. Tenders had been issued, prices received and a builder selected – we were ready to go.

Then, just a week before demolition was due, English Heritage called to inform me that someone had formally requested that the house we were about to flatten be given listed status and that they were duty bound to respond.

The client’s first reaction was to get on with knocking it down before anyone could slap a preservation notice on it.  A perfectly rational response seeing as we had consent and had followed due process meticulously.

The house was nothing special and nobody thought it might merit listed status. It turns out that rather than seeking that the house be listed, the request referred to an old artist’s studio in the garden that had allegedly been designed by a famous architect and someone wanted to preserve it for posterity. To the clients, it was a ramshackle wooden shed on bricks.

I’m delighted to report that the story has a happy ending. English Heritage took a pragmatic view and accepted that this glorified greenhouse was not worth keeping.

However, the levels on the client’s stress-o-meter hit the red zone and prompted an all-out effort to bring forward the demolition schedule. The project is back on track, but it’s a good reminder to all of us, that, no matter how thoroughly you plan, ‘stuff’ can and will happen!

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