Following a review in which it was concluded that the system as presently operated is an ineffective deterrent to planning breaches as regards listed buildings, the Givernment has issued a guidance document for local authorities on how successfully to pursue prosecutions for unauthorised building works to listed buildings, the aim being to improve the level of enforcement of the planning laws that relate to them.
Failure to apply for listed building consent where required, or to comply with conditions attaching to a listed building consent, are criminal offences, for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for two years. Being a criminal offence, there is no time limit for the bringing of a prosecution. Furthermore, a subsequent purchaser of a property can be required to remedy any breaches of planning permission by a previous owner.
Listed building consents can specify not only the physical appearance of the building, such as locations of openings, but also the materials which are to be used for the works.
Offences are often only discovered when a planning application is made for new works – at which point the local authority inspector may well notice that earlier works do not comply with the previous conditions, which should be noted on the file. When that occurs, the new owner will be required to rectify any planning breaches unless retrospective listed building consent is obtained.