Listed buildings

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who believe the council has failed to take account of a listed building when dealing with a planning application and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

The council has not properly taken into account the fact that a building is listed when considering an application for planning permission. Can the Ombudsman help me? 

  • Yes, in some circumstances, although we cannot overrule the council's decision to grant or refuse permission. Councils have a duty to have special regard to the desirability, in the public interest, of preserving listed buildings or their settings or any features of special architectural or historic interest they possess.
  • If you believe the council did something wrong when it determined a planning application affecting a listed building, you can complain to us. 
  • We may consider complaints from local or national amenity/conservation groups and individuals who believe the historic or distinctive environment near their home has been lost or damaged, or threatened with damage or deterioration.  

How do I complain? 

  • You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.
  • Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.
  • You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.
  • To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 481 1595.
  • You can complete an online complaint form

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for? 

We might find that the council:

  • failed to take into account the setting of a nearby listed building when granting planning permission
  • failed to take enforcement action where work affecting a listed building was carried out without listed building consent
  • failed to enforce conditions subject to which listed building consent was granted, or
  • failed to follow the correct procedure – for example, councils must notify English Heritage and other national amenity groups when they receive applications affecting exceptional listed buildings (Grade I and II*) or their settings. There are more extensive notification requirements within Greater London. 

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault? 

It depends on the fault and what the consequences are for you. We can recommend that the council takes action to put the matter right. Depending on the effect upon you, we may ask the council to:

  • pay for remedial work or screening if that will reduce the harm caused, or
  • pay compensation if remedial work is not possible, and
  • improve procedures so that the same problems do not occur again.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr D complained that, when granting planning permission for a large barn-like building next to his boundary, the council failed to take into account the likely effect on his listed house and historic garden, from both of which the new building was clearly and intrusively visible. The council failed to consult the complainant on his neighbour’s application. The council accepted that the presence of the listed building and historic garden and the effect of the development on them was a material planning consideration which had not been taken into account when determining the application. There was insufficient land remaining between the new building and the historic garden to plant an effective tree screen to hide the barn. Since it was highly likely that the barn would not have been permitted in its present position if its effect on the complainant's house and garden had been taken into account, we found that the council ought to pay to the complainant the difference between the value of his property before the barn was built and its value since.
Mr S complained about a council’s failure to protect a Grade II listed wall from falling into disrepair and, in his view, becoming unsafe. The council had inspected the wall: it found it would benefit from repair but it was structurally stable. The council was aware of its powers in respect of dangerous buildings and structures and in respect of repairs notices but, because the wall was not, in its view, dangerous and it had no wish to acquire it compulsorily, it did not consider action appropriate. As the council inspected the wall and considered its options in an appropriate manner, there was no maladministration in the decision it reached, notwithstanding that Mr S did not agree about the safety of the wall.

Other sources of information

Useful information about the process of listing and listed buildings generally can be found at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing  and

the Department for Culture Media and Sports website at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-culture-media-sport

If you are unhappy about the way your application for listed building consent has been dealt with please see our fact sheet on complaints from planning applicants.

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

The Local Government Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

January 2017 

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