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Advice & Guidance

Have a question about built heritage? In this section UAH gives answers to frequently asked questions FAQS and gives more in depth information on certain topics relating to built heritage through dedicated guidance notes.

You may also like visit our Case Studies section for details of individual heritage buildings and projects. If you are seeking a craftsman or heritage professional to help with a project visit the Directory of Traditional Building Skills for a selection of those working in historic building conservation.

What is a Listed Building?

‘Listed’ buildings are those designated through listing as being of ‘special architectural or historical interest’ under Section 80 of the Planning Act (NI) 2011. Such buildings are assigned to The Buildings Database, a list containing records of buildings which have been judged to be of enough architectural or historic interest to merit a survey by the department. The register is kept by Historic Environment Division and is available online at

As well as conventional buildings, the list may include man-made objects or structures not normally considered as buildings, for example tombstones, telephone kiosks, post boxes, gates, war memorials, bridges docks and other industrial structures.

What is Listed Building Consent (LBC)?

Listed Building Consent is a planning application process whereby the Historic Environment Division is required to be consulted on any alteration affecting the character of the structure of a listed building – either to the exterior, the interior or structures within its curtilage, including the fixing of advertisements or signs.

Listed building consent (items with the suffix /LBC) is a separate consent from planning permission (or a reference with the suffix /F) and is not a substitute for planning consent.

Does Listing Just Protect the Facade?

No, although this is unfortunately a common misconception. When a building is listed as being of special architectural or historic interest the whole building is listed, both inside and out. Sometimes elements of its setting, adjoining walls, gates and railings, are also listed as part of the curtilage.

Can I Nominate a Building for Listing?

Any member of the public may nominate a building for listing to the Department at any time, if it is not already listed on the Buildings Database first. Such requests will generate a ‘listing query’ a visit from a departmental architect.  This initial assessment will decide if there is sufficient cause to commission detailed research.

The Department prioritises its listing activity on a holistic area based survey (The Second Survey). If one off potential listings are identified, this work will be prioritised based upon a risk assessment. For this reason it is important to support any requests with the maximum of information on the structure you are proposing and on any threats it may face.

What is a Building at Risk (BHARNI)?

A Building at Risk is an underused or vacant listed building which the Department considers to be at risk and has placed on the Built heritage at Risk Northern Ireland (BHARNI) Register.

What is the Built Heritage at Risk (BHARNI) Register?

This is the register of buildings at risk currently maintained by UAHS, by our Built Heritage at Risk Officer for Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Historic Environment Division (HED) at the Department for Communities.  Search the BHARNI Register here:

What is Spot Listing or Building Preservation Notice (BPN)?

Spot listing is the temporary listing of building for a period of six months. This power can only be used if it appears to Belfast City Council that a building is of special architectural or historic interest; and is in danger of demolition or of alteration in such a way as to affect its character as a building of such interest.

Any requests for spot listing must be supported by a clear statement of any perceived threat, and as much historical and other supporting information as possible.

The mechanism of applying a spot listing is through the issues of Building Preservation Notices (BPNs). Previously such notices were issued by the Department, but Belfast City Council now retains powers to spot list.

BPNs allow councils to temporarily list a building for a period of six months (sometimes referred to as ‘spot listing’) while surveys and consultations are carried out.

What is a Local Listing?

A local list is a register of buildings which are not protected through designation. Such buildings are known as “non designated heritage assets”.

Buildings making up such lists are also known as “Community Listed Buildings”

Local lists are lists of buildings which are of architectural and historical interest but which do not possess the ‘special interest’ required to merit statutory listing.

Councils should weigh up the impact of any application which either directly or indirectly impacts on a non designated heritage asset, and determine whether it causes any harm or loss to the asset.

Council has discretionary powers to draw up a local list and bespoke policies for non designated heritage assets.

What is a Buildings Preservation Trust?

A Building Preservation Trust (BPT) is an organisation whose main aims include the preservation and regeneration of historic buildings. BPTs normally have charitable status.

There are around 18 BPTs in Northern Ireland. Their activities can include the acquisition, preservation, reuse or onward sale of an individual building or types of building. Trusts that work on a number of simultaneous or successive projects are known as revolving fund trusts.  BPTs operating in Belfast include, Hearth Revolving Fund, Belfast Buildings Trust, Templemore Users Trust and the Ulster Historic Churches Trust.

Guidance and advice on setting up BPTs is available from the Association of Preservation Trusts NI (contact details in Section 6).

What is a Conservation Area?

These are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Conservation areas are protected through legislation by the Department under the Planning Act (NI) 2011.

Currently there are 14 conservation areas within Belfast Metropolitan Area. Over 60 in Northern Ireland.

Design guidance is published for each designated Conservation Area to inform planning decisions.

What is Conservation Area Consent?

A separate consent in addition to planning permission is required for demolition in conservation areas. This is known as Conservation Area Consent and alternatively as “consent for demolition in a Conservation Area” and applications carry the suffix /DCA.

Section 105 of the Planning Act (NI) 2011 requires that ‘where any area is for the time being designated as a conservation area special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing its character or appearance’.

What is an Area of Townscape Character (ATC)?

An Area of Townscape Character is an area that has not been recognised as having distinctive character, but not sufficient to warrant Conservation Area status. However, because of their own unique identity it may be appropriate to identify and define these as Areas of Townscape or Village Character.

Within Belfast Metropolitan area alone, as at September 2015, 49 Areas of Townscape Character were listed.

Local policies or proposals and guidance for such areas should also be included, either in the plan or, where appropriate, in the form of supplementary planning guidance.

What are Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes?

The Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Archive contains a comprehensive record of over 700 historic parks, gardens and demesnes. The register is maintained by the Historic Environment Division and can be accessed via the department’s website.

Councils should bring forward local policies or proposals for the protection of the overall character and integrity of these distinctive areas.

What are Archaeological Sites and Monuments?

These are built remains of regional importance which consist of individual monuments, those in state care, and wider areas of archaeological interest:

Only 1800 historic monuments in Northern Ireland are scheduled at March 2009 from a total of approximately 35,000 known sites across Northern Ireland.

Development plans should designate Areas of Significant Archaeological Interest (ASAIs)

Where the impact of a development proposal is unclear, the Department will require developers to provide a report in the form of an Archaeological Assessment and Evaluation

Archaeological Mitigation measures for work to archaeological sites include: preservation of remains in situ (for which there is a presumption), licensed excavation, recording examination and archiving of archaeological finds.

Sites and Monuments are protected under The Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. They are selected from criteria published in PPS6 and include sites dating from 7000BC to the 20th century, such as prehistoric tombs, castles, maritime sites, canals, WW2 defences and the Belfast Shipyard ‘Samson and Goliath’ crane


a) Scheduled Monuments

These include tombs, ring forts, historic and vernacular buildings, planned parklands, buildings and features associated with industrial heritage. Monuments in private hands are scheduled for protection through legislation and the requirement for Scheduled Monument Consent which is required for applications which affect these remains.

Other factors determining archaeological significance include: appearance within the landscape or townscape including landmark status, quality folklore/historical interest and association with a person or event in local tradition or legend, group value, or rarity.


b) Monuments in State Care

Archaeological monuments may be taken into government care and are called Monuments in State Care. These are protected and managed as a public asset by the Department for Communities.


c) Areas of Significant Archaeological Interest (ASAI)?

An area of special archaeological interest is the overall setting of a significant area within which a number of individual and related monuments or historic landscapes are located.

The potential effect of proposals on specific sites and their settings, as well as on the integrity, or the overall character of the area, are a major consideration in determining applications for development.

Areas of archaeological potential and other terms such as area of high archaeological potential or urban archaeological zone are terms used to identify parts of the city where it is known that buried archaeology is likely to survive. They are primarily created and used in the planning process to act as triggers that can alert planning officers to possible archaeological disturbance caused by proposed new development. They are often marked out on GIS databases and any application for development within them is likely to be referred to the archaeologist for comment and advice.

Sites of archaeological interest are contained in the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record (NISMR). Any site on the register is defined as a Site of Archaeological Interest.

Development in an area of archaeological potential is likely to require archaeological evaluation and possible mitigation work in advance of building commencing. The areas are selected through study of past excavation work and historical and academic sources including the Sites and Monuments Record.

What is a World Heritage Site?

A world heritage site is a cultural or natural site of outstanding universal value. The World Heritage Convention was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and governs World Heritage Sites.  UNESCO provides for the identification, protection, conservation and presentation of cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value and maintains a World Heritage List under the management of an intergovernmental World Heritage Committee.  Individual governments are responsible for the nomination of sites for inclusion on the List and their subsequent protection and monitoring if selected.

UNESCO published guidance on the benefits of world heritage site designation, in the 2012 publication “Benefits beyond borders,” focusing on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage Sites in the context of sustainable development”

At the moment there is one World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland: the Giant’s Causeway based on its unique cultural heritage and natural and geological interest.

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a statutory protection afforded to trees under the Planning Act (NI) 2011, Section 3.

Paragraph 124 of the Act gives the Department powers to make tree preservation orders for the purpose of protecting trees considered to be of special value in terms of amenity, history, rarity, which may or may not be under threat. It also has powers to ensure the continuance of a woodland area by securing the replanting of trees where this is considered necessary.

Trees in Conservation Areas are protected through planning legislation. The extent of protection is as if a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is in place.  DOE has published guidance “A guide to Protected Trees” available online at

Who Works to Protect Heritage in Northern Ireland?

What Role Does UAH Play?

What Role do Local Councils/Authorities Play?

What Role do Government Bodies Play?

What Role Can you Play?

How do I Find Out if a Building is Listed?

How do I Find Out if a Building is on the Built Heritage at Risk Register?

What is Designation?

Designation is a recognition of a building, monument or site’s significance, intended to make sure that the character of the asset in question is protected through the planning system and allow it to be passed on to future generations.

The most commonly known form of designation is listing, as in listed buildings, but there are three other types of designation: scheduling, registering and protecting. These are determined by the type of asset concerned.

Designation is the term given to the practice of listing buildings, scheduling monuments, registering parks, gardens and battlefields, and protecting wreck sites. These are collectively known as designated assets. Designation highlights what is significant about an asset and helps to make sure that any future changes made to it do not result in the loss of its significance.

What is a Vernacular Building?

The simplest definition of a vernacular building is that it is “of its place”.

Vernacular buildings reflect local building traditions, often built using materials from the locality. Generally they are not architect-designed structures, and their form and design may reflect local folk traditions.

They are typical of a common type of building in a particular locality and generally predate 1925.

While not necessarily listed, they have a natural place in towns, villages and smaller settlements and help to bring personality and local distinctiveness.

Councils may wish to bring forward local policies to promote their sympathetic rehabilitation or to prevent them from falling into disuse.

The last remaining vernacular building was a thatch building on the Antrim Road, since demolished. Sometimes the red brick terraces of Belfast are known as “urban vernacular”.

What is a Heritage Asset?

A heritage asset is a shorthand for a range of man-made structure of architectural or historic interest which make up our historic environment.

Heritage assets include buildings and landscapes, buried remains and historic areas.  Some but not all of these have statutory protection as listed buildings or scheduled monuments. Others are included in designated conservation areas, historic parks and gardens, World Heritage Sites, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

What is a Historic Building?

The term historic building applies generally to buildings of heritage interest, including listed and non-listed structures, and buildings in conservation areas and areas of townscape character and non-listed vernacular buildings.


Funds for projects relating to the repair or regeneration of historic buildings may be identified through streams relating to: heritage; arts & culture; community development and the environment.  Every project is unique, availability of funding can be competitive and sources will dependent on whether a building is in the ownership of a private owner, a private developer or a building preservation or charitable trust. Key to the progression of a funding proposal is the vision and ambition of the owner/group, including activites that are going to happen in the building; whether there is identifiable need for the project and whether proposals indicate a sustainable, long-term re-use.

UAH provides baseline advice on funding as part of the Built Heritage at Risk project, supported by and in partnership with Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities NI.

Funding: Find out more.


Regular conservation and maintenance is the most effective way to protect historic buildings from decay. The most common cause of damage is from water getting in, either from roofs, rainwater goods or exterior walls. A regular scheme of inspection at a property can help to identify risk areas and put plans in place for repairs before damage occurs.

UAH promotes maintenance as part of the Built Heritage at Risk project, supported by and in partnership with Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities NI.

Maintenance: Find out more.

Directory of Traditional Building Skills

A key element to any successful restoration project is to ensure that appropriate conservation works are carried out using the correct methods and most appropriate materials by qualified and experienced consultants.

The Directory of Traditional Building Skills draws together a wide selection of those working in the fields of historic building conservation, ranging from architects to quantity surveyors to specialist sub-contractors.

The Directory of Traditional Building Skills identifies and promotes the importance of traditional building skills in the conservation of historic buildings and hosts a variety of associated conservation specialists in Northern Ireland.

If you are a practitioner or crafts person that works with historic buildings and would like to be featured in the Directory, please contact the UAHS office or email: [email protected].

Directory: Find out more.


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Case Studies
Riddel’s Warehouse Ann Street, Belfast View Project