200: What happens when an urn is registered as a listed building?
The Supreme Court ruled on an quirky case in which two urns were sold from a property without listed building consent, even though they were listed on the register in their own right. The question for the court was can an urn be a listed ‘building’ and does it need listed building consent to be sold?
Major Dill sold two lead urns from his property at auction. Two limestone piers with lead urns had been moved by Dill’s father from a previous property into his Grade II listed building and had separately been given listed building status. Major Dill inherited the building and the urns, and the latter he subsequently sold. Dill was unaware when he sold them that they had been separately listed.
The local planning authority notified Dill that listed building consent should have been required to remove the urns. Dill applied for retrospective consent which was refused, and an enforcement notice was served on him requiring reinstatement of the urns. Unfortunately they had been sent abroad and their whereabouts was unknown.
Dill appealed on the following:
- whether it is possible to challenge the designation of a listed building during an enforcement appeal? and
- what criteria are relevant in determining whether the urns, appearing in their own right on the statutory list, were a ‘building’?
The High Court and Court of Appeal rejected the appeals.
However, the Supreme Court took the view it was possible to challenge the designation of a listed building during an enforcement appeal. It noted that just because an item is noted on the listed building register, it does not necessarily mean it is a building. Planning Inspectors decide whether an item is a building or not, and whether it is validly listed.
This led the Supreme Court to unanimously allow Dill’s appeal and passing the listed building enforcement notice appeal onto the Secretary of State for redetermination.
Are they buildings?
Although the Supreme Court did not reach a definitive decision on whether the urns were actually ‘buildings’, the court accepted that the core definition of building involved a move away from traditional property analogies. It applied the test in a previous case of ‘Skerritts’ which looks at the size, permanence and degree of attachment of an object.
This judgment will have implications for other items on the listed building register, such as statues or garden structures, whose designation as ‘buildings’ may (or may not) be arguable.