How do buildings become listed?

Anyone can suggest a building to English Heritage for listing. We examine the case and make a recommendation, but the decision on whether to list is taken by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

The Secretary of State may also take the advice of other experts before making the final decision. When buildings are listed they are placed on the statutory list of buildings of 'special architectural or historic interest'. These are compiled or approved by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Bow Police Station, Tower Hamlets, London.

Bow Police Station, Tower Hamlets, London.

How are Buildings Chosen?

Buildings and structures are assessed to define their significance with the greatest care.  Many old buildings and indeed recent buildings are interesting, but listing identifies only those which are of national 'special interest'.  The main criteria used are:

  • Age and rarity: all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840
  • The criteria become tighter with time, so that buildings built within the last 30 years have to be exceptionally important to be listed, and under threat too.  A building has to be over 10 years old to be eligible for listing
  • Architectural interest: buildings which are nationally important for the interest of their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship; also important examples of particular building types and techniques
  • Historic interest: this includes buildings which illustrate important aspects of the nation's social, economic, cultural or military history
  • Close historical association with nationally important people or events
  • Group value, especially where buildings are part of an important architectural or historic group or are a fine example of planning (such as squares, terraces and model villages)

The published Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings are available to download in pdf format and provide much more information on our approach to assessing buildings and structures.

Exterior view of the Meare Fish House, Somerset, the only surviving monastic fishery building in England.

Exterior view of the Meare Fish House, Somerset, the only surviving monastic fishery building in England.

Can I Recommend Something for Listing?

Can I recommend something for listing? Members of the public, local authorities, amenity and historical societies have an important role in bringing buildings to our attention. You can suggest a building for listing by filling out our online application form. Further information on recent listing cases can be seen in our designation case studies.  

What if a Building is under Threat?

The threat that a building may be demolished or changed is not a reason for listing - but it may inevitably speed up the process of investigating it. Legally English Heritage and the Secretary of State are only allowed to consider the architectural or historic importance of a building when considering it for listing. 

What Happens When a Building is Proposed?

The key stages of the listing process are set out below but please refer to our Listing FAQs page for more detailed information about the process.

Application

Before English Heritage can take forward an application, we need a certain level of information, both about where the building is, and why it is of special interest. We may be unable to process incomplete applications. 

Exterior detail of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Grade II*.

Exterior detail of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Grade II*.

Assessment

This is carried out by English Heritage, and happens in three stages.

  • An initial assessment is carried out based on the information provided to determine whether or not the building may have enough special interest to merit further investigation
  • If it does, we will carry out further research, potentially including a site visit, to find out more about the building. This information gathering exercise will then be put into an initial report for consultation with the owner, local planning authority and applicant.  They will be invited to respond within 21 days on the facts we have laid out
  • All the information and representations will then be considered, and English Heritage will produce a final recommendation for the DCMS 

Decision

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport makes the decision whether to accept the recommendation. We will then contact the owner, applicant and the local planning authority letting them know the outcome.

What Happens Once a Building is Listed?

Once a building is listed it brings it under the consideration of the planning system which will ensure that some careful thought will be taken about its future.  Find out more from our Planning Advice page.

Apply online

If you would like to nominate a heritage asset for designation we would be pleased to hear from you

Online application form to designate a heritage asset