Owning a piece of history in the shape of a listed building is a tremendous privilege but also an important responsibility. This post contains useful information on maintaining a listed building in Scotland.

A listed building is a property recognised by law as being of ‘special’ architectural or historic interest. In Scotland, listing began in the late 1950s to better protect our built environment. There are now around 47,000 listed items across the country, which includes a wide range of building types, in addition to bridges and other engineering structures, monuments, statues, police telephone boxes and letter boxes. They are graded according to their merits and classified as Category A, B or C items.

Category A

This is the highest grade. These buildings are of national or international importance, either architectural or historic. They may also be fine, little-altered examples of a specific period, style or type of building. Category A buildings account for 8% of all listings in Scotland.

Large Palm House, Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. Category A listed building

Image source.

Category B

This grade covers buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of a particular period, style or type of building that may have been altered. Category B accounts for 50% of the listed buildings in the country.

Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Category B listed building

Image source.

Category C

Category C buildings are of local importance and account for 42% of Scotland’s listed items. They are modest examples of certain periods, styles, and building types of architectural or historic interest.

New Castle Lachlan, Argyll & Bute. Category C listed building.

Image source.

Responsibilities if you own a listed building

If you own a listed building, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the upkeep of its special character and prevent it from falling into disrepair. Listing protects the complete building both inside and out, which includes the immediate area around the property and any extensions previously added. It may also cover garden walls, courtyards and statues.

You will not be expected to undo any alterations made before the listing date, but you must carry out necessary repairs to maintain the building in the condition it is in on the date it is listed. Your local planning authority should be contacted before carrying out any alterations, extensions or demolitions. They may advise that listed building consent is required and even tell you what materials and techniques you should use when making the changes.

Listed building consent is not usually required if you’re simply doing like-for-like repairs, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution by contacting the planning authority beforehand. You apply in much the same way as for planning permission, but there are no fees involved.

Unauthorised alterations and renovations carried out by previous owners after the building’s listing date may have to be reversed. This will be the responsibility of the new owner, so it’s important to be aware of any changes made to a listed property prior to purchase.

Repairing or replacing windows  

The design and form of original period windows contribute significantly to the character and architectural integrity of historic buildings and conservation areas. For this reason, uPVC windows are not permitted and it is unusual for double glazing to be introduced. However, secondary glazing is normally deemed acceptable by Historic Scotland.

Consent for the replacements of historic windows is usually only permitted if they have deteriorated beyond practical repair. In most cases, any proposed new windows must replicate the original design in terms of materials, dimensions, proportions, aesthetics and method of opening.

Damp in historic buildings 

One of the most common problems encountered in historic buildings is damp. Unlike modern properties, which have a waterproof membrane added, older buildings are constructed of softer, more porous materials that allow moisture to enter and then evaporate. When cement or other non-breathable materials are introduced on top of traditional materials, moisture is unable to evaporate and this can lead to damp, or ‘perceived damp’. Whatever the cause, it is rarely an issue that can’t be remedied. The most obvious causes of damp to look our for are:

  • Overflows
  • Broken or blocked gutters and downpipes
  • External ground levels that are too high or slope down toward the building

Buying a listed building

If you are considering buying a listed property in Scotland, it is important to use a conservation surveyor and a solicitor with expertise in listed buildings. This will ensure that all of the appropriate enquiries and analyses are carried out.

Taking out the correct buildings insurance is also vital because listed buildings are often more expensive to rebuild. What’s more, the right protection could safeguard you against any unauthorised changes carried out by the previous owners.

Clyde Property is a leading independent, multiple award winning estate and letting agent with 30 years’ experience in selling and letting property in Scotland. Just call your local Clyde Property branch today, for friendly, impartial advice on finding your next dream home.