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When is a Structure a Building?

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

2020/NO.46 - Another one in our series of legal dogfights that Mi’Learned friends took all the way to the Supreme Court. Blindingly obvious we hear you cry and so it should be but ponder thus. The case is Dill v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2020] UKSC [2020]PLSCS94. It concerned two Flemish lead urns dated about 1765 standing on large limestone plinths. They had moved around a bit with previous owners and were eventually sold by their then owner a Mr Dill at auction in 2009. Unknown to Mr dill these two lead urns and their plinths had been listed grade II in their own right. Such listing being of architectural and historic interest applies to BUILDINGS.

Stratford on Avon District Council sunk their teeth in, issued an Enforcement Notice and refused a retrospective application for removal of the listing. The case went onwards and upwards to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal, every time in the favour of the Council. Then we reach the Supreme Court. Not to overlook that a breach of a listed building enforcement is a Criminal offence not a Civic transgression. Much at stake !

The Supreme Court made several judgements. It confirmed that an individual should have the right to fairly challenge a listing. Next in order to be a listed building (on its own),the item must be both listed and a building. There was criticism of the Local Authority who were much confused as to what constituted a building. Help came to the rescue in a previous pivotal case of Skerritts of Nottingham v Secretary of State [2000] 2 PLR 102 which set down three criteria namely (a) size,(b) permanence and (c) degree of physical attachment. The Dill case also looked at the relevance of being within the grounds of a listed building. The Supreme Court found in favour of Mr Dill and that the Enforcement Notice should be the subject of redetermination by the Inspector.

So why is this seemingly trivial but long-winded case a matter of importance ? It links to the individuals now inalienable right to challenge a listing. It sets out with not much wriggle room what does constitute a ‘building’. Finally in our specialist world of what does or does not become Tenants fixtures it is essential guidance if the Council suddenly decides to “spot list” something big and chunky that has always been in your grounds and you have always thought it was yours to sell if you wanted. A stone horse trough or an ancient gypsy caravan or even an old double decker bus come to mind. Yes, we have seen all of them at one time or another. The two-ton stone horse trough was actually stolen one dark and rainy night, but that is another story for another day.


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