Converting a listed building
It can be a long and complex process says Chris Mitchell of Mitchell Architects. Here’s his expert advice:
Many listed properties are sold with planning permission for conversion already in place, but it's important to check as it's still possible to buy properties and land without it.
Estate agents will market a listed property stating its original and current planning use. They will include comments such as ‘may be suitable for alternative uses, subject to gaining the appropriate planning permissions'. This generally means there isn't a straightforward alternative use, but that the local authorities will be supportive about finding one.
If you're thinking about buying without planning approval, consider making an offer subject to planning permission. It's much safer than completing a sale on a property without it, but it's worth bearing in mind that you may go through the whole process, paying all the various costs along the way, and still not be given approval, but at least you won't be stuck with a property you can't renovate.
Bear in mind that planning approval can prove difficult to obtain. The restrictions imposed by wildlife surveys, design and access statements, flood risk assessments, contamination surveys and asbestos surveys, which may be important in old buildings, can all make it a long and tricky process.
It's always worth speaking with your local authority's conservation officer to check what you can and can't do. Planning officers are generally happy to have pre-application negotiations, particularly if you have an architect involved. That way you can talk through any possible problems they may have with your proposals.
For inspiration, click here to see our reader home Victorian chapel conversion.