The art and craft of listed building renovation: navigating the dos and don’ts

The art and craft of listed building renovation: navigating the dos and don’ts Conversions & Extensions

Renovating a listed building embodies the perfect union of architectural integrity, historical appreciation and modern functionality. It is a chance to restore and revitalise a piece of history while also infusing it with the modern comforts of the 21st century. This guide aims to unravel the intricacies of ‘listed building renovation,’ answering your most pressing questions and providing a roadmap to execute a successful renovation project.  

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What is a listed building?

A listed building is a structure of significant historical or architectural interest, protected under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. As such, any renovations or alterations require special consideration and usually, consent from the local planning authority.

What is the difference between a Grade I and a Grade II listed building?

All listed buildings in England are assigned a grading to indicate their significance and help guide alterations and renovations. There are three main grades:

  • Grade I listed buildings are of exceptional interest, often regarded as internationally important. Only about 2.5% of listed buildings fall into this category
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest and represent about 5.8% of all listed buildings
  • Grade II listed buildings, which are of special interest, account for 91.7% of all listed buildings

The key difference lies in the degree of original features, rarity, architectural merit and the building’s connection to distinguished figures or events. The grading affects how freely you can modify a listed building and which changes are permitted or require consent.

Can you change the inside of a Grade II listed building?

Changing the interior of a Grade II listed building is not entirely off-limits, but it does require careful planning and consideration. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to interior renovations of a listed property, but there are some general guidelines you can follow to determine if something is off-limits.

For example, if proposed changes such as undertaking a basement conversion affect the building’s character as a structure of historical or architectural interest, you will need to apply for Listed Building Consent (LBC). Such changes may include altering fireplaces, windows, walls, or any other original features.

It’s essential to work with professionals experienced in listed building renovations, like the team at WindsorPatania who can provide expert advice on balancing historical preservation with modern conveniences.

Things you can do to a listed building: Actions with and without consent

Renovating a listed building requires careful planning and execution to ensure that every modification aligns with both the building’s historical significance and the prevailing conservation regulations. If you are converting a commercial building into a residence, and the property is listed, there might be added complexities worth knowing about prior to moving forward. Not every alteration necessitates official consent, but understanding which actions do is crucial to your renovation project’s success.

Installing double glazing

It is not impossible to install double glazing in a listed building but it does require meticulous attention and thorough research.

The character of a listed building is often encapsulated in its original windows and altering them can dramatically change its appearance. So, homeowners will need to obtain Listed Building Consent (LBC) for such installations. Alternatively, secondary glazing is often approved, offering improved thermal efficiency without transforming the building’s exterior.

Adding solar panels

Adding solar panels to a listed buildin also comes with a conditions. Historic England advises “how to minimise the potential damage to the fabric and the visual impact of a renewable installation on the character and appearance of the building or site.”

While introducing renewable energy solutions like solar panels is a commendable sustainability initiative, it must not detract from the historical and aesthetic charm of your listed building. Therefore, obtaining LBC is essential before proceeding with such installations to ensure they are sympathetic to the look of the property.

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Knocking down walls and external doors

Considering the structural integrity and historical context of a listed building, removing walls or installing the right garage design to compliment your property can all impact the character of the building. These alterations requires expert guidance and LBC, given the potential for significant changes to the building’s interior layout.

Kitchen renovations

Installing a new kitchen in a Grade II listed building can help to make the space more functional and modern. But there is also the risk that it can have a detrimental impact on the property’s historic character. For this reason, any significant changes to the layout, structure or original features typically require LBC. But do not be discouraged – with thoughtful design and careful material selection, your new kitchen can harmoniously blend the past and the present.

Interior alterations

While major internal modifications to a Grade II listed building require consent, minor alterations that do not impact the building’s character may be permissible without LBC.

For example, you may be allowed to refresh the paint if historic layers beneath are preserved. Similarly, wallpapering, and other non-structural changes are usually fine, but it is always worth seeking professional advice before proceeding.

Building extensions

Adding an extension to a Grade II listed building is possible, but it must be sensitively designed to match the building’s architectural style and not disrupt its historical significance. Planning permission and LBC will be required for this type of large-scale modification since it makes such a significant impact on the look of the property.

Determining if there have been any additions or extensions previously added to the property over the years will help the council’s decision-making process, so make note of these in your application.

Restoration and repairs

Listed building restoration can often be performed without LBC, provided the work constitutes like-for-like repairs using traditional methods and materials. However, if the repairs alter the building’s character or involve substantial demolition and reconstruction, consent may be required.

Navigating the subtleties of renovating a listed building can be complex, but with the right knowledge and professional advice, it is a rewarding journey that combines respect for history with a passion for sustainable, contemporary living.

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Why instruct the help of a Heritage Consultant

When taking on a renovation project for a listed building, bringing on a qualified heritage consultant is strongly advised. Listed buildings require particular care and consideration to maintain their historic significance and structural integrity, and a Heritage Report will be required as part of the planning application process.

The Heritage Consultant produces the Heritage Report. They do not produce any drawings, but they create a report which will includes the Architect’s drawings, historical pictures, existing pictures, etc and advise on the key text to support the project proposal. A Heritage Consultant, in addition, provides guidance on working within the building’s constraints while still achieving the desired renewal. They perform detailed on-site assessments to identify character defining elements that must be protected. This includes aspects like original floor plans, period features, unique materials and more. They will determine appropriate solutions that are sensitive to the building’s heritage value.

Heritage consultants also facilitate the permissions process for listed building consent. They prepare the necessary documentation and drawings for the local authority, making sure heritage considerations are thoroughly addressed. Their ability to liaise with planning officers and navigate regulations smooths the consent process.

Can you extend a Grade II listed building?

Extending a Grade II listed building is a question often pondered by homeowners, architects, and developers alike. The good news is that, while not straightforward, the answer following an appraisal, alongside the advice of a Heritage Consultant, does tend to lean towards a cautious ‘yes’. As with every aspect of renovating a listed building, it is important to note that such a venture is not without its complexities and legal prerequisites.

Grade II listed buildings are specially classified due to their historical or architectural significance, and therefore, any proposed extensions or changes must respect and complement their existing character. It is a delicate balance to strike — preserving the past while also incorporating modern functionality and comfort. For those prepared to take on this challenge, the results can be truly spectacular, creating unique spaces when executed well.

The first step is understanding the listing. This is essential because the listing typically includes the entire building, both interiors and exteriors, and often includes later additions and modifications. For example, the land surrounding the building, or ‘curtilage’, is sometimes included in the listing, as well as outbuildings or other structures.

One key aspect to consider when extending a Grade II listed building is the preservation of the building’s original character and design integrity. Extensions should be designed to respect the original architecture, but they do not necessarily need to replicate it.

Contemporary design, when carried out sensitively, can create a visually striking contrast to the historic building. It is important to note that applying for listed building consent is a prerequisite for any extension work. This process will often require detailed drawings and an accompanying heritage statement that outlines the proposed changes and justifies them in a heritage context. You will also need to show that the extension will not harm the building’s character or historic features.

Enlisting experienced architects can make this journey significantly smoother, as they can help you navigate the complex planning process and design the extension to satisfy modern living while also respecting the historical character of the property. They will also supervise the delicate construction work to preserve the building.

Do not let the complex regulations and processes discourage you. Extending a listed building can be a rewarding project that combines the best of historical architecture with contemporary design, breathing new life into a piece of the past.

Interested in learning more about the intricacies of extending a Grade II listed building? Explore our services or delve deeper into who we are at WindsorPatania. Our team combines the necessary expertise with a passion for preserving architectural heritage, making us the ideal partner for your listed building renovation journey. If you are planning to renovate or extend your listed building or flat, please contact us for further advice or to book your complimentary discovery call.

Renovating a listed building summed up

Restoring a listed building is a delicate art that requires a careful balance of respect for historical integrity, the necessity for modern comforts and adherence to planning regulations. It is a journey that can be both challenging and rewarding, culminating in a home that is steeped in history yet geared for the present.

Listed building renovation can breathe new life into our architectural heritage, creating unique, sustainable living spaces. Whether you are contemplating a kitchen renovation for a Grade II listed building, curious about installing solar panels or considering knocking down walls, the key is to approach it with knowledge, respect, and the right guidance.

WindsorPatania’s comprehensive suite of services, including Residential Retrofit, Retrofit Development Appraisal, and Sustainability Appraisal, are tailored to navigate the complexities of listed building renovation.

To delve deeper into permissions and renovations, explore Class MA, a guide that offers further insights into the world of planning permissions and renovations.


Embracing the challenge of renovating a listed building can reward you with a home that is as rich in character as it is comfortable. As guardians of the nation’s architectural heritage, we have the power to protect and enhance these historical treasures for future generations to admire and enjoy. At WindsorPatania, we are honoured to guide you through this journey in locations across the UK, including London and Cambridge.


This guide was written in collaboration with our content team member Annie Button.

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