Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Listed Buildings

Many buildings are of interest, architecturally or historically, but for the purposes of listing by Historic Scotland this interest must be ‘special’. To merit designation the property must satisfy set criteria which are used to distinguish this significance. The criteria by which the Scottish Ministers define the necessary quality and are broadly:

  • Age and Rarity;
  • Architectural Interest;
  • and Close Historical Association.

Most buildings are listed following a comprehensive re-survey of a particular geographic or as a result of a listing proposal.

The work is undertaken by a team of Historic Scotland Designations Managers who usually make an assessment visit to each property. While reasonable effort is made to contact owners and occupiers during this process, this is sometimes not possible, particularly for unoccupied buildings and those in multiple occupation and/or ownership. It is of course desirable to advise the owners accordingly but it is not a legal requirement.

In order to be listed, a building need not be functioning for the purpose it was originally intended: for example, a redundant railway viaduct may have continued its life as a walkway or cycle path, even a wildlife sanctuary.

Similarly, the state of repair is not a relevant consideration against the test of special interest.

The term "building" is defined broadly in the legislation and can include, for example, walls, fountains, sundials, statues, bridges, milestones and telephone boxes.

What Does the Listing Include?

The listing applies to the whole building or structure at the address named on the list and always covers both the interior and exterior, regardless of listing category. Orkney Islands Council is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing and whether or not other structures at the address may also be considered to be covered by the listing.

For example, a farmhouse might be identified in the address column, but structures such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers or additional buildings, such as wash-houses or stables might also be considered to be covered by the listing. This is known as the 'curtilage' of a listing.

The usual tests used by the planning authority to determine if curtilage applies are:

  • Were the structures built before 1948?
  • Were they in the same ownership as the main subject of listing at the time of listing?
  • Do the structures clearly relate in terms of their original function to the main subject of the listing?
  • Are the structures still related to the main subject on the ground?

Listing Categories

Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and exterior of all listed buildings regardless of category.

Category A

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.

Category B

Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered.

Category C

Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B.

Alterations to Listed Buildings

Listing a building does not prevent it changing or developing, but it does mean that consideration has to be given to preserving its particular character. Any proposal to demolish, or to alter or extend a listed building in a way which would affect its character, must be granted listed building consent before it can proceed.

Listed building consent must be obtained where proposals will alter the character of the listed building. This applies regardless of the category of listing - A, B or C - and to work affecting interior and exterior. The planning authority decides when any work is likely to affect the character of a listed building.

All applications for consent are made through Orkney Islands Council rather than Historic Scotland, except when a local authority is itself the owner of a listed building and wishes to make alterations.

The proposals may also require other consents such as planning permission or building warrant.

Alterations which may seem minor, such as stonecleaning all or part of the property, alterations or replacement of windows or installation of roof lights may require listed building consent. Major work such as extensions, structural alterations or partial or total demolition are very likely to require consent.

Consent forms can be downloaded from the Related Downloads section to the left.

Links Section:

  • Pastmap provides maps detailing locations of listed buildings.
  • Use the Historic Scotland Historic Buildings search engine to check the listing of your property.
  • Guidance for Owners of Listed Buildings.

All links are available through Related Sites on the left of this web page.