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Listed buildings

What are listed buildings?

Listed buildings are designated heritage assets.

Under section 1 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, listed buildings are ‘buildings of special architectural or historic interest’ which are included on the National Heritage List for England.

They are graded according to their special interest:

  • Grade I – of exceptional interest; nationally only 2.5% of all listed buildings are in this category
  • Grade II* – of more than special interest; 5.8% of all listed buildings are in this category
  • Grade II – of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this category

Not only buildings can be listed but also other structures and objects. Local examples are bridges, bandstands, K6 telephone boxes, fountains and milestones.

Whilst designation often applies to old structures/objects it can also include more modern ones. An example would be the Cummins site which has three listed buildings constructed in the 1960s.

With regards to the extent of listing, the following applies:

  • The list entry (see National Heritage List of England) only identifies the ‘principal listed building’
  • The whole of the exterior and interior of the principal listed building, including any later alterations, are listed
  • Any object or structure fixed to the principal listed building at the date of listing are also included
  • Any freestanding object (e.g. birdbath or statue) or structure (e.g. outbuilding or wall) within the curtilage of the principal listed building which has formed part of the land since before 1st July 1948 is also treated as part of the listed building (s1(5), Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990)

The identification of curtilage is ‘quintessentially a matter of fact’. Legal precent has established three main criteria for the assessment (Mynors, 2006):

  • physical layout of the principal listed building and any other objects/structures
  • ownership, historically and at the time of listing (or 1 January 1969 if listed earlier)
  • functional relationship between the principal listed building and any other objects/structures, historically and at the time of listing (or 1 January 1969 if listed earlier)

The Council determines whether an object or structure is curtilage listed. For any queries about the extent of listing, please contact [email protected]   

Further information

Charles Mynors (2006)  Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Monuments. Fourth Edition. London: Sweet & Maxwell.

Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act) 1990 [external link]

How do I search for a listed building?

There are currently over 540 listed buildings in Darlington Borough. 

To find out whether you own or occupy a listed building, please visit Historic England’s National Heritage List for England (NHLE) website. It is advisable to use the map-search function. If you do word-search, please keep in mind that the official name of your listed building may differ from the current property name.

The list entries provided on the NHLE include the listed building's location, designation details and a basic description. More recent designations have a more comprehensive record and include an assessment of significance. It is important to keep in mind that the list entries do not define the extent of listing but merely identify the principal building that is listed. Further information on the extent of listing is in the following section.

Further information

The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) [external link]

How are listed buildings designated?

Listed buildings are designated by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) (s1, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990). The designation process is led by Historic England, the government's statutory adviser on the historical environment.

Anyone can nominate a structure or object to be listed. If you wish to do so, use Historic England's 'Apply for Listing' website.

Once you have submitted your application, the following will happen:

  1. Historic England will notify the Council (and other stakeholders like the owners of the property) about the proposed new listing and ask for comments.
  2. They will assess whether the proposal meets the DCMS's Principles of Section for listed buildings.
  3. After a consultation period, they will send a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will make the final decision.
  4. The Council and other stakeholder including yourself will be notified about the decision outcome.

Before you apply for listing, it is advisable that you familiarise yourself with Historic England’s Listing Selection Guides.

What effect does designation have?

Works that affect any part of the listed building (for the extent of listing also see 'What are listed buildings?' above) are likely to require Listed Building Consent from the Council. This includes works to:

  • the whole to the exterior and interior of the principal listed building, including any later alterations
  • any object or structure fixed to the principal listed building at the date of listing are also included
  • any freestanding object or structure within the curtilage of the principal listed building

Please note that some works may also require planning permission from the Council.

If a person carries out works without Listed Building Consent when required or does not comply with the conditions of a Consent, they may be guilty of a criminal offence. It is a defence to proceedings to prove that (s9, (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990):

  • the works were urgently necessary in the interests of health and safety, or for the preservation of the listed building
  • temporary works of repairs, support or shelter were not practicable
  • the works were the minimum necessary 
  • notice in writing justifying the works was given to the Council as soon as reasonably practicable 

Do I require Listed Building Consent?

The Council does not offer free Heritage advice. Should you wish to receive Heritage advice prior to applying for Listed Building Consent (or Planning Permission), which we recommend, a Pre-application form should be submitted and the appropriate fee paid. For further information, visit our Pre-application service section

Applications for Listed Building Consent are free of charge. The relevant form and guidance on completing it can be downloaded from our website in the Planning applications forms section.

Applications are generally viewed more favourably if they:

  • retain historical fabric and features 
  • retain the historical floor plan (layout)
  • use materials and construction methods which are compatible with the structure (e.g. traditional lime mortars)
  • avoid introducing elements that are not in keeping with the character and appearance of the listed building (e.g. uPVC windows and doors)
  • avoid introducing elements which may detract from the interpretation of the origins and historical development of the listed building (e.g. new openings or extensions)
  • avoid demolition 

The Council also does not give advice on whether Planning Permission is required for any development. General information and how to apply can be found in our Planning application and permission section. Alternatively, use the Planning Portal. Or seek professional advice from a third party.

Further information

Planning Portal [external link]

Buildings at risk

Listed buildings can become ‘at risk’ when they are in a poor state of maintenance. This is especially the case for those that are unoccupied, as they are less likely to be cared for soon.

Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register only includes those listed buildings which are grade I, grade II* and places of worship. It currently includes the following structures:

  • Goods Shed at North Road Station, Darlington (grade II*)
  • Dovecote, 45 metres east of Manor House, Houghton Le Side (grade II*)
  • Church of St Cuthbert, Darlington (place of worship, grade I)

SAVE Britain's Heritage takes an interest in grade-II-listed buildings that are vacant and whose future is uncertain. It has its own Buildings at Risk register. Its aim is to raise awareness of these 'forgotten' buildings and bring them to the attention of potentially new owners who are able to repair and return them back to use.

The Council's conservation officer keeps note listed buildings in the borough which are 'at risk' or 'vulnerable' to further decline. 

This page was last updated in January 2024.

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