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Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

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SUBJECT:
How close is too close for a new development from a listed building?
FROM:
David Rogers
(Bedfordshire)

My house was built in the 70's and the house next door, which is six metres away is a grade II listed thatched cottage. The Club behind us is selling its land to build on. The planning application CB/15/01741/FULL for the land for 3 x 4 bed properties was recently withdrawn. A new application in for six three bedroom properties has now been filed. The withdrawn application had the bounder between the new properties and the thatched property at around eight metres. The new application has the gap reduced down to one metre from the walls of the property. Are there any regulations stipulating a minimum distance between a listed building a proposed new development?

David Rogers

There is no strict guidance on such distances, but Building Regulations usual require a distance of 1m from a new building to a boundary. Here, I suspect it will be the setting of the listed building that will be the determining factor in terms of planning. If the land was once part of the listed building it might be regarded as 'curtilage', but whether that makes any real difference depends on precise circumstances.

As the listed building is thatched, building regulations might require a greater distance between the listed building and new development because of concerns about fire spread (if ever the thatched building suffered a fire). Whilst this is a building regulation matter, there would be no harm in raising it is a query/objection in terms of planning.

A valid objection in planning terms would be the impact of the new development on the listed building. This can be considered in terms of the physical size (bulk) of the new building, because it would usually be inappropriate for a new building to be too dominant or over-bearing against the listed building. Other considerations might include the positioning, orientation, etc. of the new development in relation to the listed building. The views of the listed building (if any) from public footpaths and roads can be looked at and if severely reduced this could also be considered as an objection, as it would mean detriment to the 'setting'.

The key issue will be how the new development impacts the setting of the listed building. The number and size of the proposed houses, as well as their location and closeness, are all relevant factors in determining such impact.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors

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SUBJECT:
Is it necessary to install a felt lining under an existing roof of a historic building?
FROM:
Helen Riley
(Somerset)

We are in the process of selling a Georgian listed property and the buyer's structural engineer has reported back that the roof requires felting. This of course would require huge expense on scaffolding, removing all tiles etc. Is felting roofs a legal requirement? I understand that all new builds might require it, but surely there cannot be a legal obligation to felt every unfelted roof.

Helen Riley

It is inappropriate for any professional to expect an existing building, especially an historic one, to meet present day building regulation standards. The requirement for a lining is something that falls under building regulations and if a roof needs to be stripped and recovered then a lining would be required. However, there are many houses that have perfectly sound roof coverings with no linings and they suffer no problems. Sometimes there might be driven rain or snow that gets under the tiles/slates, but this would normally evaporate away without causing problems. In fact the lack of a lining improves air circulation/ventilation through a roof space and can help to reduce the risk of problems such as condensation, as well as speeding up any minor drying if a little bit of rain or snow does get through periodically.

With most slate and tile coverings the individual slates/tiles overlap such that there is usually two or three 'layers' of them over the roof surface. Even if you can see daylight through the slopes from inside the roof, it would take quite a bit for rain to get in. Even if the outer 'layer' failed, there would be another layer to stop direct water ingress. Strictly speaking, there is no major technical need for a lining to such roof coverings. In fact, where a roof slope is lined it can prevent a leak from being identified early, because the lining stops the water entering into the roof space (at least initially!).

An exception to this might be where there are old interlocking pantiles. With such coverings, there is only one tile over any part of the roof. If there were to be a failure it would result in direct water penetration. Ideally, such roof coverings should have a lining under them, as a secondary defence from rain, etc. However, provided the covering is sound and well maintained the need for a lining is desirable rather than essential.

From the above discussion, it is rarely necessary for a professional to say that a roof 'requires' a lining; it may be desirable in some situations. However, where a roof is leaking it is often a matter of repairing the covering and this does not usually mean having to go to the extent of lining the roof. You are right in saying that to provide a lining means a lot of work and expense. If the roof covering is sound, it is an unnecessary expense at present.

As for legal matters, it is only if the roof had been recovered in modern times that a lining would be necessary under building regulations. However, Councils will not usually pursue building regulations non-compliance if the work took place over one year ago. In other words, no-one can force you to put a lining under the roof covering. That said, if the recovering was fairly recent (say, within the last few years) and there was a contravention, you could 'regularise' the situation by seeking retrospective approval. The problem with this is that the regulations are such that to meet the standards you would then have to line the roof. Without knowing when the roof was last recovered it is not possible to say whether a lining should have been used and therefore, whether there was a contravention. Even so, I cannot see any practical reason to now line the roof if it is performing satisfactorily.

The other issue that this touches on is the need for consent. The stripping and recovering of the roof would mean the loss of some of the existing roof covering. Generally, we would anticipate being able to salvage and re-use anything between perhaps 50% and 70% of the original covering. Listed Building Consent would be needed for the work and the Conservation Officer would need convincing that the work was necessary. The lack of a lining is not in itself a justification for stripping and recovering an otherwise sound roof, bearing in mind the risk of losing perhaps 50% of the original covering tiles/slates. I doubt consent would be given in such circumstances.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.

The Whitworth Co-Partnership LLP - Chartered Architects and Surveyors