There may be good news in store for universities in England with listed buildings and/or buildings of special architectural importance. The 2013 Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013, makes some important changes. The intention is to make it easier to carry out works to these sorts of buildings.

The Act makes several changes. Three of the main changes include:

  • A certificate of lawfulness: once in force (it does not yet apply) this will allow the building owner, such as a university, to apply for a certificate in respect of proposed works to a listed building. If granted, this will mean that the owner will not require listed building consent for the proposed works. The test in securing this certificate will be whether the works affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historical interest. Further guidance is expected regarding the mechanism for applying for this certificate.
  • Extent of listed building within a building or curtilage: prior to the 2013 Act, the concept of a listed building was very wide. In addition to an actual building, any structure or object attached to a building or within a building’s "curtilage", was also listed. Any works involving those structures or objects, irrespective of whether they were of any historical or architectural importance, would also have required listed building consent. The Act now allows for certain structures/objects to either be excluded from the listing or to be certified as lacking any architectural merit.
  • Immunity from listing: if, for example, a university wants to develop a building by demolishing an existing structure and then construct a new building, it can apply for a certificate of immunity from listing. If granted, the building that is the subject of the development will not be listed for at least five years. This gives greater certainty to the building owner/developer that the development will not be halted or delayed by a subsequent listing. This is a significant change from the current position whereby a certificate can only be applied for once a planning application has been made. It therefore also has time and cost advantages for an owner/developer in not having to first prepare and submit a planning application. Under the Act, an application for this certificate can be made at any time. Please note though that this provision is not yet in force.