What gives a place a sense of romance? Is it the pretty furnishing of the love nest interior? Or do history, soul and character play a role, too? Some places have this in abundance, such as the hideaway built by Edward VII for his mistress, the actress Lillie Langtry. Now operating as the Langtry Manor Hotel in Bournemouth, the special character of this building is preserved for the nation. It is “listed” by English Heritage under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest. The building has a category Grade II listing, reserved for buildings considered nationally important and of special interest. 92% of all listed buildings are in this category. In the case of the Langtry Manor Hotel, its best feature is said to be the north-west corner pavilion, with its balconied bedroom under a high roof.
One of the most famous local buildings is, of course Kenwood House (Iveagh Bequest) which has a Grade I listing reserved for buildings of exceptional interest. Only 2.5% of listed buildings qualify for this classification. The orangery with its elegant Ionic attached columns, paired at angles, is one of the features protected by the listing, and a perfect setting for a gentle, romantic stroll. The house, which was originally built in 1616 and renovated in the middle of the 18th century, is also a favourite wedding venue. The beautiful gardens, which have their own Grade II* listing under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, were landscaped by Robert Adams. In his day, they afforded extensive views over London but nowadays the view is limited by the height of the trees in Ken Wood.
So what do you do if you find your very own love nest, full of special historic and architectural features? You can find out if the building is listed by checking the databases held by English Heritage. The listing will encompass the whole building and you can apply to the local authority for listed building consent if you want to carry out works, including demolition, or any extensions or other alterations. It is a different regime than planning permission, and the main distinction is that consent is also required for internal works, or for works to outbuildings within the curtilage or the property. This may sound daunting, but it is important to remember that while the preservation of the building is paramount, but the aim is not to preserve it “in aspic,” and as long as the authority is satisfied that the special features that brought about the listing are safeguarded, consent will be granted to let you modernise the building to your heart’s delight.
Linda Felton is a solicitor at Fortune Green Legal Practice, a niche firm providing town and country planning law advice for home owners. She advises clients on a range of issues, such as planning applications, consultations and objections, judicial review, planning appeals and enforcement action.