You may have noticed the story of Llanwenarth House in the news recently – the Grade II listed, seven-bedroom manor which was built in 1532. The current owner, Kim Davies, has recently admitted to making over 60 changes to the Welsh property without obtaining permission; breaching laws which are put in place to protect listed buildings.
Mr. Davies made many unauthorised changes to the protected property, including converting a bedroom into a plush bathroom – complete with a mosaic-covered Jacuzzi. He installed spotlights to the ceilings of many of the historical rooms and removed many original features, such as staircases and fireplaces. Not content with modernising the interior, Davies also replaced the original timber windows with modern frames and installed new ‘mock Tudor’ doors.
The extent of the changes has grabbed the attention of many news outlets throughout the UK, as Llanwenarth House is said to be where the famous hymn – All Things Bright And Beautiful – was written by Cecil Alexander whilst she was staying at the property in 1848. The historically-inaccurate changes are also being highly criticised by the press as ‘tacky’ and ‘like something from Footballer’s Wives’. Mr. Davies is due to be sentenced on 15th May and faces an unlimited fine and a possible prison sentence.
This case is likely to be followed with interest by the thousands of people in the UK who live in a listed property. There are over 460,000 properties with listed status in the UK, many of which are residential properties. Buildings of any type can be listed as long as they are deemed to be of special, important or exceptional historical or architectural interest. This means that castles and cathedrals share listed status with many old residential properties such as country cottages and manor houses, like Llanwenarth House.
Making any changes to a listed building can be difficult, as you have to apply for ‘listed building consent’ under the Planning Act 1990 for any developments, including – in some cases – basic repair work or painting. While it’s a bit of a hassle, many people view listed status as essential to protecting the heritage of the UK and preserving historically significant buildings. If we were able to change and modernise any building we wanted to, our history could be lost. So what if you live in a listed property and you need to replace your windows, for instance? What should you do?
Firstly, it’s important to cover yourself from all angles, so before you organise for the works to be carried out, you should check with your local authority to see if you need to ask for permission. In the likely event that you do, you’ll be directed towards the government’s Planning Portal – an online resource where you can submit your application for listed building consent. Ensuring that you are allowed to carry out works on your home is always your responsibility.
Any contactors or suppliers you use cannot be held responsible for the works carried out in your listed home – you must ensure that you are allowed to make the changes.
Evander often undertake work on listed properties and understand the laws surrounding making changes to historical buildings. Where windows need repairing or replacing, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be given permission to do anything but an exact match of the originals, using exactly the same materials. This means that you cannot replace timber-framed windows with the same design in uPVC – the replacements must also be timber and must be the same colour unless you have obtained permission to do otherwise. Replacing timber windows with uPVC ones, while better for the thermal efficiency of your home, is extremely unlikely to be approved – over 90% of appeals to do this are dismissed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
If you live in a listed building and you want to make changes or have some repairs done, please contact your local authority before approving any work. For those who need to recreate a certain window or door designs for their listed home, we can source accurate materials and create bespoke products to ensure you are well within legal guidelines and that the character of your home is maintained. Remember – by bypassing these laws and legislation, you may be asked to restore your home to its original condition out of your own pocket if you have been found guilty of breaching the rules, not to mention the unlimited fine and 12 month prison term. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.