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Luton Borough Council

Listed buildings

'Listed building' is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national historical or architectural interest

It is included on a register called the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest', drawn up by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

In the act, any object or structure fixed to the building and any object or structure within the curtilage of the building, which although not fixed to the building forms part of the land and has done so since before 1 July 1948, is also treated as part of the listed building.

What are the different grades of listing?

Listed buildings are placed in one of three grades, which give an indication of their relative importance - Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II.

Grades I and II* listed buildings are a small proportion (about 6% nationally) of all listed buildings. They are particularly important to the nation's built heritage as buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest.

The remaining buildings are listed Grade II and represent an important part of our built heritage which is given special protection.

Grading can be changed where re-evaluation takes place after damage or alteration, or as more evidence of a building's history or architectural quality comes to light. However, the statutory controls on alterations apply equally to all listed buildings whatever the grade.

What are the criteria for listing?

The following are the main criteria that DCMS uses in deciding which buildings to include on the statutory list:

  • architectural interest: buildings of importance because of their design, decoration and craftsmanship; also important examples of particular building types and techniques and building of significant plan forms
  • historic interest: illustrations of important aspects of the nation's social, economic, cultural or military history
  • historic association: close historical association with nationally important people or events
  • group value: especially where buildings comprise an important architectural or historic group or a fine example of planning e.g. squares, terraces or model villages

The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to have historic importance:

  • all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, and most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 are listed
  • buildings erected after 1840 may be listed where they are the best examples of particular building types, but only buildings of definite quality and character are listed
  • buildings that are less than thirty years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat
  • buildings are not listed until they are at least ten years old

What is the effect of listing?

You will need the council's consent to demolish a listed building, or for any alteration or extension that would affect its character as a building of architectural or historic interest. The need for listed building consent is different from planning permission but the process is very similar.

It is a criminal offence to carry out works to a listed building without prior listed building consent, even if you did not know that the building was listed.

Carrying out unauthorised work is punishable by a fine or a prison sentence, and the council can require you to put the building back the way it was.

Can I do work on a listed building?

Regular maintenance and 'like for like' repairs do not need listed building consent, but it would be required if the repairs include removal of historic material or changes to the character.

For example, internal alterations that include removal of historic doors, fireplaces, plasterwork or panelling or other historic fittings, or replacement of external doors or windows, would require consent. However, internal repainting or redecoration would not normally need consent. External painting may require consent if it effects the character of the listed building.

Advice on maintenance and repairs is available from us and is recommended, as the effect is not always straightforward. You can contact us if you are unsure whether you need consent, or for more advice on what type of work would require consent.

Can I do emergency work to a listed building?

Emergency work can be carried out to a listed building without prior consent providing you can subsequently prove all of the following:

  • that the works were urgently necessary in the interest of safety or health or for the preservation of the building
  • it was not practical to secure public safety or health, or preserve the building, by works of repair or temporary support or shelter
  • that the work was limited to the minimum measures immediately necessary
  • that notice in writing justifying in detail the work was given to the council as soon as reasonably practicable

How do I apply for listed building consent?

You will need to fill in a listed building consent application form. The listed building consent process is very similar to the planning process and for most cases it will take about eight weeks to process an application.

Advice to owners or developers and their professional agents is an important part of the listed building consent application process and our conservation officer is available to discuss your proposal before you submit your application. Advice can be given on appropriate alterations and extensions to historic buildings.

With the exception of most simple applications, it is advisable to employ an agent who is familiar with the our policies and procedures.

If you are in any doubt, you should check with our conservation officer as to whether planning permission or listed building consent is needed before starting any work to a listed building.

What policies apply to listed buildings?

Generally we seek to preserve listed buildings, their settings and any features of architectural or historic interest. We would not normally approve an application to:

  • demolish a listed building
  • allow alterations that would involve the loss of historic parts of the building
  • obscure the original plan form, layout or structural integrity
  • otherwise diminish the historic value of a listed building

We also aim to keep listed buildings in their original use, or if this use no longer exists, in another use that causes least harm to the building. Many buildings can sustain some sensitive alterations or extensions to accommodate continuing or new uses. Listed buildings do however vary greatly in the extent to which they can be changed without harm to their special architectural or historic interest.

Additional guidance is included in the National Planning Policy Framework under Chapter 12.

What can you do about neglected listed buildings?

Not all listed buildings are cared for by their owners. In certain cases of deliberate neglect or long term vacancy, a listed building is put on the register of buildings at risk. The register is drawn up by English Heritage for Grades I and II*. Some councils publish lists that include buildings of all grades, these lists bring together information on all listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments known to be at risk from neglect, decay or redundancy.

A council monitors buildings at risk and seeks long term solutions for neglected, redundant or derelict listed buildings. Some of the buildings are the subject of refurbishment proposals and will be removed from the register when works are complete.

A council has legal powers to serve an urgent works notice or repairs notice on a listed building owner, requiring repair works to be carried out to prevent further decay. The notice will specify the works that are considered reasonably necessary for the preservation of the building.

An urgent works notice is restricted to emergency repairs only, for example works to keep a building wind and weather-proof and secure against vandalism. A repairs notice is not restricted to urgent works and may include works to preserve architectural details but cannot be used to restore lost features.

In extreme cases where building owner has not taken reasonable steps to preserve a listed building, the council can do the work at the owner's cost, or compulsorily purchase a building at risk.

How do I report a building at risk?

If you are aware of an historic building which is either derelict or not being properly preserved you can contact us. We will then inspect the building and advise you what action it intends to take.

Luton’s listed buildings

There are over a hundred buildings throughout the town that are included on the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

There is one Grade I listed: the medieval St. Mary's parish church. All the others are Grade II, and most date from the nineteenth century; however there are several Art Deco buildings from the period when Luton experienced major growth in the 1920s and 1930s.

"Follow this link to the National Heritage list for England to see if a building is listed.

Locally listed buildings

The town has around 160 non-statutory locally listed buildings. These are recognised for their local architectural and historic interest and their contribution to Luton’s streetscape, history, character and identify. Their inclusion on the list does not provide any statutory protection against alteration or demolition, however will be a material consideration in planning decisions.

Luton’s local list of heritage assets has recently been updated to include some new additions.

Follow this link for a version of the proposed list.​​


Contact info
Conservation officer
Luton Borough Council, Town Hall, George Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ
Tel: 01582 546317


© 2021 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ