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PPS 6: Planning, Archaeology and The Built Heritage
Listed Buildings: Policy BH 10

Policy BH 10 Demolition of a Listed Building
There will be a presumption in favour of retaining listed buildings. The Department will not permit the demolition of a listed building unless there are exceptional reasons why the building cannot be retained in its original or a reasonably modified form. Where, exceptionally, listed building consent is granted for demolition this will normally be conditional on prior agreement for the redevelopment of the site and appropriate arrangements for recording the building before its demolition.

Justification and Amplification

6.22 The destruction of historic buildings is very seldom necessary for reasons of good planning; more often it is a result of neglect or the failure to make imaginative efforts to find new uses for them or to incorporate them into a new development.
6.23 There are many outstanding buildings for which it is in practice almost inconceivable that consent for demolition would ever be granted. The demolition of any Grade A or Grade B+ building should be wholly exceptional and should require the strongest justification. Indeed consent will not be given for the total or substantial demolition of any listed building without clear and convincing evidence that all reasonable efforts have been made to sustain existing uses or find viable new uses, and these efforts have failed; that preservation in some form of charitable or community ownership is not possible or suitable; or that redevelopment would produce substantial benefits for the community which would decisively outweigh the loss resulting from demolition.
6.24 While it is acknowledged that very occasionally demolition of a listed building will be unavoidable, consent will not be given simply because redevelopment is economically more attractive to the developer than repair and re-use of the building, or because the developer acquired the building at a price that reflected the potential for redevelopment rather than the condition and constraints of the existing historic building.
6.25 Accordingly where proposed works would result in the total demolition of a listed building, or of any significant part of it, the Department, in addition to the general criteria set out in para 7.5 above, will address the following factors:
  1. the condition of the building, the cost of repairing and maintaining it in relation to its importance and to the value derived from its continued use. Any such assessment will be based on consistent and long-term assumptions. Less favourable levels of rents and yields cannot automatically be assumed for historic buildings. Also, they may offer proven technical performance, physical attractiveness and functional spaces that, in an age of rapid change, may outlast the short-lived and inflexible technical specifications that have sometimes shaped new developments. Any assessment will also take account of the possibility of tax allowances and exemptions and of grants from public or charitable sources. In the rare cases where it is clear that a building has been deliberately neglected in the hope of obtaining consent for demolition, less weight will be given to the costs of repair;
  2. the adequacy of efforts made to retain the building in use. The Department will require to be satisfied that genuine efforts have been made without success to continue the present use or to find compatible alternative uses for the building. This includes the offer of the unrestricted freehold of the building on the open market at a realistic price reflecting the building’s condition (the offer of a lease only, or the imposition of restrictive covenants, would normally reduce the chances of finding a new use for the building); and
  3. the merits of alternative proposals for the site. Whilst these are a material consideration, the Department’s view is that subjective claims for the architectural merits of proposed replacement buildings will not in themselves be held to justify the demolition of any listed building. There may very exceptionally be cases where the proposed works would bring substantial benefits for the community, which have to be weighed against the arguments in favour of preservation. Even in these circumstances it will often be feasible to incorporate listed buildings within new development.
6.26 It is preferable that proposals for the demolition of a listed building are not considered in isolation from proposals for subsequent redevelopment. The Department may therefore request developers to submit detailed drawings illustrating the proposed redevelopment of the site to accompany a listed building consent application for demolition.
6.27 In the rare cases where the Department decides to grant consent for demolition of a listed building conditions will normally be imposed:
  • prohibiting demolition of the building until planning permission has been granted and contracts have been signed for the approved redevelopment of the site;6 and
  • requiring, where appropriate, the recording of the building prior to its demolition.
6 This power is provided by Article 45(5) of the 1991 Planning Order and is to ensure that a site occupied by a listed building is not left to lie vacant following demolition.
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