LISTED BUILDINGS AND CONSERVATION AREAS
There are over 500,000 buildings in the UK which have been listed for their age and/or special architectural qualities. The vast majority of these are modest ‘Grade 2’ buildings, with few of the more important ‘Grade 2*’ or ‘Grade 1’. Originally established to prevent complete demolition, the scope of the law has been expanded and at present requires owners to apply for listed building consent for virtually any alteration. A listing applies to the whole building, not just the exterior, and failure to obtain consent could result in a heavy fine or even imprisonment. Applications are dealt with by local authority conservation officers, in liaison with English Heritage(or its regional equivalents). As with planning, pressure groups such as the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) will have their views taken into account. Strangely, VAT is zero rated for alterations requiring LBC, but standard rated for repairs.
Unlike listed buildings, conservation areas are concerned with external appearance of historic areas containing a number of buildings and consent is required to make effectively any change to the outside. They are administered similarly to listed buildings and are widespread amongst our cities, towns and villages. The acceptability of products and materials for listed buildings and conservation areas is a complex field where a careful, informed approach is essential.
The Building Regulations originally came about to deal with the squalid conditions in Victorian cities, such as the ‘Great Stink’ of London in 1858 with its outbreak of cholera resulting in major drainage and water supply improvements. They now encompass measures on, for example, energy conservation and access for the disabled as well as fire protection, noise and ventilation. The Building Regulations apply to England and Wales, with separate regimes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Generally, designers can choose between prescribed means of compliance in Approved Documents or their own demonstration that designs meet the regulations. They are generally administered in two stages by local authority building control officers (building inspectors): approval of plans and compliance on site. Ever growing legislation and numerous statutory authorities apply to specific areas - such as fire, drainage or site safety - which are often linked to the Building Regulations.
Identifying all regulations relevant to each product and clearly demonstrating compliance is obviously essential. Regulations are constantly being expanded and amended, and close monitoring can reveal opportunities for lobbying or introduction of new products.