Listed buildings can be found across Scotland (both in rural and urban settings) and come in all different shapes and sizes - from stately homes and castles to farmhouses, cottages, and city centre townhouses. With over 47,000 properties currently recorded by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) as being listed, it is helpful to understand what owning a listed building entails prior to purchasing one.

HES are the public body responsible for giving a building its listed status. The criteria for a building being awarded listed building status is that it must be deemed to be of 'special architectural or historic interest'. Three categories of listing can be awarded, as follows:

  • Category A - buildings which are outstanding examples of a particular period, style or building type
  • Category B - buildings which are major examples of a particular period, style or building type
  • Category C - buildings which are representative examples of a period, style or building type

Extent of the listing - what is covered?

Listed status doesn't always apply to just the building itself. The definition extends to 'any object or structure fixed to the building' as well as 'any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, though not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1st July 1948'. For example, if a period property is enclosed by a boundary wall or there are outbuildings such as a garage or some stables which have been built prior to 1st July 1948, they may also be included as part of the listing.

Prior to purchasing a listed building, you should always check with your solicitor as to the extent of the listed building status as this may impact on your plans for the property in the future.

Alterations, extensions and demolition - what is required?

Prior to carrying out any alterations or extensions to a listed building, as well as either demolishing part or all of it, it is recommended that you enquire with the local planning authority as to whether listed building consent (LBC) is required. In most circumstances, LBC will be required where such works would have a negative impact on 'its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest' - however, it is for HES/the planning authority to determine whether something has a negative impact, not the proprietor or their architect.

For alterations and extensions, if LBC is approved, it is vital to comply with any conditions set out in it and that all work is carried out in accordance with the drawings submitted as part of the application for the LBC.

If LBC is approved for the demolition of a listed building (either in whole or in part), as well as complying with conditions set out in the LBC, you must also give notice to HES of the proposed demolition works so that they can record the position. Once such notice has been given to HES, demolition works should not commence until either (a) 3 months has passed from the date of the LBC being granted or (b) you have received written notification from HES that they have completed their recording procedure or that they do not intend to make a recording.

Demolition work is always considered to be a last resort by the planning authorities and so there is no guarantee that the planning authority will grant LBC for such works to be carried out.

Undertaking alterations, extensions or demolition works to a listed building without obtaining a required LBC is a criminal offence which can lead to a prison sentence and/or a substantial fine being issued. Therefore, if in doubt, you should always speak to your local planning authority prior to carrying out any works as whether LBC is required or not.

Repairs and maintenance

Your local planning authority should be notified prior to carrying out any repairs or maintenance works to a listed building. While restoration works are unlikely to require LBC, it is still important for the local planning authority to be consulted on (i) the extent of the works to be carried out, (ii) the process for carrying out such works and (iii) the materials which you intend to use.


Kirsty Graham