Listed building design guidance

This guidance provides information on repairing, altering or extending listed buildings.

What is a listed building?

A listed building is a building which has been included in a national list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest compiled by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

There are three categories of listed status for buildings in England and Wales.

Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest. These account for about 2.5% of Listed Buildings nationally

Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest. These account for about 5.5% of Listed Buildings nationally

Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. These account for about 92% of Listed Buildings nationally

Listed building criteria

Age and rarity: The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings erected before 1700 'which contain a significant proportion of their original fabric' will be listed. Most buildings built between 1700 and1840 are listed. After 1840 more selection is exercised and 'particularly careful selection' is applied after 1945. Buildings less than 30 years old are rarely listed unless they are of outstanding quality and under threat.

Aesthetic merits: i.e. the appearance of a building. However, buildings that have little visual appeal may be listed on grounds of representing particular aspects of social or economic history.

Selectivity: where a large number of buildings of a similar type survive, the policy is only to list those which are the most representative or significant examples.

National interest: significant or distinctive regional buildings e.g. those that represent a nationally important but localised industry

State of repair: this is deemed not be a consideration for listing. A building can be listed regardless of its state of repair.

Listed buildings are not all large and imposing buildings, or ones with strong historical connections. They include a wide range of building types and dates and can include structures not normally thought of as 'buildings'.

Listed building consent

It is an offence to demolish, alter or extend a listed building, so as to affect its character as a building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, without first obtaining listed building consent.

This requires the submission of an application, together with drawings illustrating the proposals. 

Listed building consent is separate from planning permission, for which approval may also be required.


The alteration of listed buildings requires the greatest skill and care in order to avoid damage to the historic structure, and to ensure that any additions are in keeping. As a general rule, it is always better to repair, rather than replace, original features, however, if replacement is necessary it is essential that the feature is replaced as existing.

The following guidelines have been drawn up to assist owners when considering alterations to their listed building:

External elevation

Any alteration or repairs to external elevations should match the original materials in size, colour and texture.

Old brickwork should never be painted.

Artificial facing materials such as stone cladding are unacceptable on listed buildings.

Re-facing with rough cast, cement render or cement based paint is irreversible and should be avoided.

On stuccoed elevations, where there is mock jointing, rustication, and other architectural details, these should be retained.

On original plaster elevations, pargeting or moulding, however simple, should be retained or copied when repairs are necessary.

Roof details

The roof line is nearly always a dominant feature of a building and retention of the original shape, pitch, cladding and ornament is most important.


The retention of original windows is vital to the preservation of the character of listed buildings. Where replacement is necessary, the new windows should match the originals in every respect. For example, sliding sashes should not be replaced with top opening casement windows. Detailed design advice on window replacements is given in the guidance on sash windows.


Original doorways, or any surviving panelled doors are of value and should be retained. If replacement of a door is necessary, the new door should be a replica in design, materials, proportions and size. It is particularly important that the arrangement of panels and detail of the original mouldings are continued.

Door cases, door furniture, foot scrapers, fanlights, pediments, columns, pilasters, cornices, consoles and carved stucco moulded details should not be removed or mutilated, but retained.

Balconies and railings

Our area has fine listed buildings of formal urban design in terraces, squares and crescents. Wrought or cast iron balconies and railings are often important features in the front elevation, and it is essential that they should be maintained and repaired. If they have to be replaced (many railings were removed for the war effort) then facsimiles should be erected.

Rainwater goods

Rainwater goods can be highly decorative features on listed buildings, 'barley sugar twist' down pipes, and heavily moulded eaves cornices are some of the more unusual rainwater goods found in our area. It is essential that these features are retained, but if replacement is necessary, the new rainwater goods should match the originals in design and materials. uPVC rainwater goods should never be introduced with cast iron gutters or down pipes.


Listing applies not just to the exterior fabric of the building itself, but also to the interior, fixtures, fittings, and objects within the curtilage of the building.

Interior features of interest should be respected and left in situ wherever possible. Staircases, panelling, mouldings and decorated ceilings are some of the more distinctive features, which contribute to the character of a listed building and it is important that they are preserved.


There is a need for great sensitivity when dealing with historic buildings. It is often best to seek professional advice from a local architect.

Owners are also advised to consult the local planning department, who will be able to advise on whether Listed Building Consent is required, and on the suitability of detailed proposals.

Sash windows

Collectively, surviving historic and architectural details on buildings such as traditional panelled doors, sliding sash windows or architectural ironwork can make an immense contribution to a conservation area's character and appearance. This guidance note, which provides advice on sliding sash windows, is one of a series provided to help owners maintain the character of their buildings and the heritage of the borough.

Recently when it has been necessary to replace the original sash windows, a variety of modern designs have been used, some of which have a damaging effect on the appearance of a building, particularly those terraces built in Filey, Scarborough and Whitby since the late eighteenth century. For these reasons, the council has introduced the following guidelines for window replacements on period buildings.

Repairs to sash windows

Wherever possible, owners should repair, not replace, their sash windows. Repairs and insulation are a more practical and cheaper alternative to wholesale replacement; this has the advantage of restoring the efficiency of sash windows without damaging the traditional character of the property.

A good joiner can repair all parts of a sash window, rotten wood can be chiselled out and replaced; if necessary, whole elements can be replaced; sills, bottom rails, parting beads, glazing bars, cords and weights.

There are also modern techniques available to insulate sash windows without affecting the external appearance of the building. Good secondary glazing, or the insertion of a pile fabric along the parting beads, can be effective.

For cases of extreme neglect, where window replacement is inevitable, the following guidelines apply.

Sash windows on listed buildings

On listed buildings, all traditional timber sliding sash windows should be restored. No change in the design or material will be permitted. Listed building consent is required for all replacement windows.

Windows in conservation areas

In the conservation areas, window replacements should match the original in appearance. On the front elevation the windows should open in the traditional sliding sash manner. On the rear elevation there can be more variety of opening, but the window should retain the appearance of a sash when closed.

Planning permission for windows

Planning permission is always required for window alterations on commercial properties, including guest houses, boarding houses and buildings used as flats.

It is hoped that people will be sympathetic to traditional window styles in their area and, when replacing their windows, have respect for traditional proportions and glazing bars.

Design advice

Glazing bars

Replacement windows should reflect the original pattern of glazing bars, typical of the period of the property.

Wherever possible, the original profile of the glazing bars should be matched, perhaps by re-using the original glazing bars.

Imitation or stick-on glazing bars applied to either side of a window, should not be used.


Replacement windows should have a painted, not timber finish. The most usual and effective colours are white and cream.


Traditionally, crown glass, which had an unusual sparkling reflective quality, was used in sash windows. Wherever possible, the original crown glass should be retained. The use of frosted glass, textured glass, or bulls eyes, should be avoided.

Period doors

Collectively, surviving historic and architectural details on buildings such as traditional panelled doors, sliding sash windows or architectural ironwork can make an immense contribution to a conservation area's character and appearance. This guidance note, which provides advice on period doors, is one of a series provided to help owners maintain the character of their buildings and the heritage of the borough.

The door and doorcase are often the most important elevational feature of a historic building. The detailed design of the door can give a useful clue to the age of the building. The arrangement of panels and the profile of the mouldings vary with different architectural styles of building. Original doors are of value, and it is important that their period character is preserved.

Repairs and replacement of doors

Always try a comprehensive repair on an original door first of all. It may be that only half a day's work by a skilled joiner is all that is needed to restore an old door to good working order. If the door is beyond repair it is possible to have a copy of the original made by a joiner. Although sometimes more expensive than off-the-peg door, a replacement copy will enhance the character and the value of a period property. Standard width modern doors may need considerable alteration to properly fit in older openings.

Replacement by modern style doors is to be regretted as few match the quality of design of the originals. The use of inaccurate imitations should be avoided. Features such as 'mock-Georgian' fanlights, bulls-eye glazing, and extravagant studs and hinges are inappropriate on period buildings.

Generally, when replacing a door on a period building, a design which is appropriate to the character of the building should be chosen. The following guidelines have been drawn up to assist owners when considering the replacement of a door.

Doors in listed buildings

If replacement of a door on a listed building is necessary, the new door should be an exact replica of the original, painted timber door, in traditional framed and panelled construction, including the original arrangement of panels and their different mouldings.

Listed building consent is required for all alterations to a door or a doorway on a listed building.

Doorways in conservation areas

In the conservation area, particularly those areas of formal townscape such as terraces, squares and crescents, it is essential to maintain the uniformity of the detailing of doorways. Any door replacements must respect the original neighbouring styles of door.

In the villages of Scarborough Borough, simple traditional cottage doors should be used, to blend in with the village character.

Some Conservation Areas are covered by special rules known as Article 4 direction. In these cases planning permission will be needed for a change of door design or material.

Door furniture

Doorcases, door furniture, foot-scrapers, fanlights, and carved or stucco moulded details should not be removed or mutilated, but retained.

The appearance of a door is greatly enhanced by its door furniture. This should be of solid brass or cast iron as the original, and of the same style as the building. Plated brass is not satisfactory.

Door finishes and materials

It is always best to stick to solid wooden doors as glass tends to look weak and inappropriate.

Replacement doors should have a painted, not timber, finish. Varnished wood was not a traditional finish for doors on period buildings, and should be avoided, although woodgraining was common on nineteenth century doors.

Painting can have a significant effect on the appearance of a terrace, and the colour requires careful selection. Gaudy colours are unlikely to be successful. It is best to stick to full bodied traditional colours.

Architectural ironwork

Collectively, surviving historic and architectural details on buildings such as traditional panelled doors, sliding sash windows or architectural ironwork can make an immense contribution to a conservation area's character and appearance. This guidance, which provides advice on architectural ironwork, is provided to help owners maintain the character of their buildings and the heritage of the borough.

The survival of period ironwork is a comparative rarity largely due to its removal during World War Two.

Where it does survive, however, architectural ironwork can make a significant contribution to the character of listed buildings and conservation areas.

Streets such as The Esplanade, Scarborough and The Crescent, Filey, derive much of their character from their ironwork.

As part of its campaign to improve the historic built environment, Scarborough Borough Council wishes to ensure that period ironwork is retained and reinstated. Since there is a long history of the use of architectural ironwork in the borough, the council also wishes to see a continuance of this tradition by encouraging well designed ironwork in new developments in the conservation areas.

Historical background (ironwork)

Architectural ironwork includes railings, balconies, overthrows (the curving ironwork above gates from which a lantern would be suspended) and window guards. In this area, most architectural ironwork is cast iron which began to be used from about 1714. This material was ideal for repetitive designs and was particularly popular from the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. Frequent use was made of classical motifs – such as lotus leaves for railing heads. From about 1850 castings became heavier, more elaborate and with classical motifs replaced by the fleur-de-lys and other foliate designs.

First floor balconies in cast iron began to appear on urban houses during the latter part of the eighteenth century. The fashion grew rapidly between 1820 to 1830 as can be seen in Scarborough's South Cliff.

Window guards developed about 1840 often in a single honeysuckle style fitted to wide stone sills so that a substantial window box could be placed on it without falling off.

Wrought iron was initially used before cast iron became readily available and continued to be used for more decorative work and one-off pieces, gates for example, since it can be beaten into shape. The Arts and Crafts movement in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century signalled a return to popularity of wrought ironwork.

In the twentieth century widespread use has been made of mild steel which lends itself to welding.

Ironwork - the need for permission

Where a property is listed as being of special architectural or historic Interest, consent is needed for works of demolition, alteration or extension in a way which affects the character of the building. The effect of this is that the removal of railings, balconies or other ironwork would require listed building consent.

In conservation areas, consent is needed for demolition, including partial demolition. The removal of balconies, and most railings will, therefore, need conservation area consent. The policy Scarborough Borough Council is to oppose the removal of period ironwork.

Before you carry out any work you are advised to check with the planning department.

Inronwork and period buildings

Ironwork needs to be regularly maintained and repaired. The following are good repair practices which you are advised to follow:

  • Retain as much existing material as possible; repair and consolidate rather than renew.
  • Use traditional materials and techniques, replacing like with like (cast iron with cast iron; wrought iron with wrought iron).
  • Fully record the item before, during and after the work.
  • Repair should always be based on the fundamental principle of minimal disturbance.

If your building has lost its ironwork, the Scarborough Borough Council wishes to encourage an historically accurate reinstatement of the railings. Old photographs, plans or fragments of railings at nearby properties are often a useful source of information. Fragments of the original railings often survive behind street name plates which were not removed.

Modern off-the-peg 'period' ironwork is often poorly designed, flimsy and not suitable for historic buildings. The planning department can advise you on an appropriate design. Grant aid may also be available for work proposed through the Scarborough or Whitby Town Scheme, the Conservation Area Improvement Scheme or the Whitby Architectural Features Scheme. The grant officer can advise you on the possibilities of grant aid in your case.

New developments

On new developments in the conservation areas, the policy of Scarborough Borough Council is to encourage the incorporation of architectural ironwork where it is appropriate; high standards of design, appropriate to the character of the new building and the area will be expected.

A good modern design which reflects and reinterprets original idioms rather than slavishly copying them may often be more appropriate than a poor reproduction of a 'period' design. Many off-the-peg period designs are often poorly detailed and executed copies of original designs and are in any case inappropriate in modern buildings. To achieve quality craftsmanship in the design and execution of architectural ironwork, the employment of a good designer and an artist-blacksmith is recommended.

Further information

Some of the national amenity societies provide detailed information on architectural features.