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altering a listed building

Listing a building does not prevent it changing or developing, but it does mean that consideration has to be given to preserving its particular character.

Any proposal to demolish, or  to alter or extend a listed building in a way which would affect its character, must be granted listed building consent before it can proceed.

When is listed building consent necessary?

Listed building consent must be obtained where proposals will alter the character of the listed building. This applies regardless of the category of listing (A, B or C) and to work affecting interior and exterior. The planning authority (in most cases the local authority) decides when any work is likely to affect the character of a listed building.

All applications for consent are made through the local authority rather than Historic Scotland (except when a local authority is itself the owner of a listed building and wishes to make alterations), and it is the planning authority who decides when consent is required. The proposals may also require other consents such as planning permission or building warrant.

Alterations which may seem minor, such as stone cleaning all or part of the property, alterations or replacement of windows or installation of roof lights may require listed building consent.

Major work such as extensions, structural alterations or partial or total demolition are very likely to require consent.

You can submit your application to the planning authority in hard copy or electronically. For details of your local planning authority see the Scottish Government Planning Authorities pages. To submit an electronic application to your planning authority use the ePlanning portal.


The timescale set for a listed building consent application currently corresponds to the eight week period set for processing a planning application. Historic Scotland clears 97 per cent of consent cases within 28 days of receiving the application from the planning authority which will have processed, advertised and determined the application.

What is the local authorities role in listed building consent?

The local authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent. They will consider applications in the light of the advice given in Historic Scotland’s Managing Change Guidance Notes and other national policy documents as well as their own policies.

The planning authority may refer to Historic Scotland for advice at any stage during the consent process and must notify Historic Scotland of their intention to grant consent for developments affecting category A or B listed buildings unless the application is determined by the authority through the Removal of Duty to Notify programme (see below) and for all demolitions, regardless of category.

Applications for specific types of works affecting A and B listed buildings may be determined by those planning authorities that have signed up to the Removal of Duty to Notify programme.  This means that if the authority decides to approve an application for these works it is no longer required to notify the decision to Historic Scotland.

What is Historic Scotland’s Role in Listed Building Consent?

Historic Scotland’s role is primarily advisory and as a source of expert knowledge. Historic Scotland’s Heritage Management Directorate provides specialist advice to planning authorities and to owners and their agents who wish to alter or develop listed buildings.


If the local authority proposes to grant listed building consent for either the demolition of a building, or the alteration or extension of any listed buildings in categories A or B they must inform Historic Scotland unless the application is determined by the authority through the Removal of Duty to Notify programme.

Acting on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, Historic Scotland must then consider whether there are special circumstances – such as the particular importance of the building, the degree of national interest or local concern about the proposals – to recommend that the application is called in for their own decision.

When the Scottish Ministers decide to call in a case, a Reporter is appointed who may arrange a public local inquiry, according to the wishes of  either the applicant or the local authority.


Certain listed buildings are exempt and in these cases advice regarding the historic character of the building is given by an alternative route.

The main categories of exempt buildings are:
  • Buildings which are both listed and scheduled; in these cases proposals require only scheduled monument consent.  
  • Places of Worship. However, even in these cases, proposals for total demolition require listed building consent.
There is a voluntary consent arrangement currently in place for places of worship. This arrangement deals with proposals for works to the external fabric of buildings in ecclesiastic use which, were it not for the exemption, would require listed building consent. This arrangement is due to be reviewed every three years from 1 January 2006.

Appeals procedure

If your application for listed building consent is refused by the planning authority or if you feel the conditions are unreasonable you have the right to appeal. You must appeal using a form which can be obtained from:

The Scottish Government
Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals
4 The Courtyard
Callendar Business Park
Callendar Road
Falkirk FK1 1XR


The appeal must be accompanied by full details of the proposed works and by a copy of all relevant correspondence with the planning authority.

Building Preservation Notices

Planning authorities can serve building preservation notices to protect unlisted buildings which they consider to be of special interest and which are threatened by demolition or extensive alterations. The building will be protected by the same legal provisions as a building which has been listed.

The notice is effective for up to six months, during which time the Scottish Ministers will decide whether or not the building in question should be listed.


All proposals to demolish all or part of a listed building require listed building consent, regardless of category. Proposals to demolish most types of buildings in Conservation Areas also require consent.

Because listed buildings are a rare and unique resource, the presumption will be against granting permission to demolish unless it can be shown that there is no viable alternative.

Listed Building and Conservation Area Consent for Demolition
If consent for demolition is granted, the demolition may not begin until there has been an opportunity to make a record of the building.

In this case, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) must be notified by the owner, and demolition must not begin until three months after the date of notification.

The owner will be advised of the correct procedure by the planning authority granting consent.

If a listed building is moved what happens to the designation?

Occasionally listed building consent will be granted to dismantle a listed building and move it to a new location. This can be near to the original location or many miles away.

Once a listed building has been moved from its statutory address (the statutory address is at the top of the listed building record and is the only legal part of the record) it ceases to be listed.

When we have been made aware that the building has been moved we will normally delist it. An external party can, however, ask us to consider the building for listing in its new location.

In the majority of cases once a building has been dismantled and re-erected it will not continue to meet the criteria for listing. This is because moving it is likely to have had a considerable impact on its significance and in many cases the structure will be considered to be a ‘new’ building and not eligible for listing for around 30 years.

Very seldom a building may be dismantled and moved to a location at the same address. In this case we would examine the case for listing as noted above.

In rare cases it may be appropriate for a moved structure to remain listed even though it has been relocated. This is most likely for structures which can be removed in one piece and with a minimum of intervention to the fabric, such as a cast iron bridge, sculpture or war memorial and where the new location is considered not to have an adverse impact on the merit of the structure. In these cases we would normally delist the structure in its original location and reassess it in its new location when asked to do so.

Grahamson cast iron gate near Falkirk was listed at category B in 1960. Following it relocation in 2002 it was considered that it still met the criteria for listing. You can view the listed building record here.

Before relocation

After relocation


Grahamston cast iron gate before relocation  

Grahamston cast iron gate following relocation


View our range of publications about listed buildings.


Dictionary of Scottish Architects

William Fraser

A web resource for anyone interested in the built environment and those who created it.

Contact us

Heritage Management
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8716