Government commits to consult on making it harder to demolish locally important buildings after the loss of ‘Crooked House’

The Government has committed to consulting on requiring planning permission to demolish unlisted buildings. Currently most unlisted buildings outside a conservation area can be demolished without planning permission. The move comes in the wake of the controversial demolition of the ‘crooked house’ pub which highlighted the vulnerability of unlisted buildings- irrespective of how loved by local communities they are.

​Government commits to consult on making it harder to demolish locally important buildings after the loss of ‘Crooked House’

Photo: Werneth Church in Oldham being demolished earlier in 2023.

Lord Parkinson made the promise on behalf of the Government in response to the The Victorian Society’s amendments to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill to require planning permission for demolishing buildings. Baroness Andrews and Lord Carrington and Lord Shipley put forward the amendments which were supported widely in The House of Lords.

The Victorian Society Director, Joe O’Donnell, said: ‘I am delighted that the Government has committed to consult on our proposal to remove permitted development rights for demolition. This recognises that the current system is not working for the ordinary local buildings people care about. It simply cannot be right that you need planning permission to make major changes to a building but not to knock it down! This is insanely wasteful in a climate emergency and it is absurd to be able to so easily destroy housing in a housing emergency.’

We urge the public to respond to the consultation and push for the removal of demolition rights for buildings pre 1948 when it is published. The changes won’t mean that you can’t demolish these buildings just that planning permission is needed. Planning permission will be needed for a new building on the site any way so the same application could consider demolition and rebuild. I am very grateful for the support of Baroness Andrews, Lord Carrington, Lord Shipley and everyone across the heritage sector who have helped get the proposals this far.’

The House of Lords debate is in Hansard from column 492 and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson’s, response is at column 507:

‘The noble Baroness will be pleased to hear that we will seek views on two options that she raised in Committee and in our discussions before the summer: an exemption from the right for buildings built before 1948 or an exemption for buildings which are locally listed, meaning that local planning authorities would need to consider the specific circumstances of each case… I hope she will be reassured that we are looking keenly at the issue that she and other noble Lords have raised in their amendments.’

The Victorian Society stress that ending, or significantly reducing, demolition under permitted development rights would:

  1. Help meet the UK’s legally binding net zero target by reducing demolition and encouraging reuse and retrofit of existing buildings
  2. Strengthen local democracy by ensuring local communities have a say over which buildings stay or go in their areas
  3. stop the loss of non-designated heritage assets like the crooked house; and
  4. address the housing crisis by preventing the easy demolition of homes.

Notes to editors

The arson and then demolition of the ‘crooked house’ said to be ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ has received a huge amount of press in recent weeks and revealed the public’s desire to protect unlisted buildings from demolition. These plans offer an opportunity to prevent the loss of other unlisted buildings important to local communities.

Currently, most buildings can be demolished without planning permission if they are not listed or in a conservation area. These permitted development rights (PDR) for demolition have already been removed for pubs and theatres, and statues. There is no requirement for the buildings to be run down or beyond repair for the right to apply.

Victorian buildings and humble buildings like the Crooked House are under listed nationally – as identified in Historic England’s Saunders Report – leaving them more vulnerable to demolition.



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