All parts of the United Kingdom have systems for protecting buildings of special architectural or historic interest. The process is devised not to prevent change but to manage it effectively, working with the grain of the building, not against it.
Listed buildings enjoy a greater measure of protection than others. Any alteration affecting their character requires ‘listed building consent’ from the local planning authority. Crucially, for historic pubs, this includes any alterations to the interior – with unlisted buildings, permission is not generally needed to alter them internally. CAMRA has been working hard to get listed as many important pub interiors as possible and has made considerable progress in doing so.
Many listed inventory pubs have benefited from exemplary refurbishments or extensions where their listed status has ensured careful control. In turn, this has protected their futures as businesses, as without the changes, their viability might have been questionable.
In England and Wales, listings are made, for England, by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of English Heritage and, for Wales, by Cadw on behalf of the Welsh Assembly.
Grade I This highest of gradings covers just 2.5% of all listed buildings: these are those that have 'exceptional', even international interest.
Grade II* (spoken of as 'Two Star'). Covers a further 5.5% of listed buildings. They have 'outstanding' interest.
Grade II 92% of all English and Welsh listed buildings are at this grade. They have what is described as 'special' architectural or historic interest.
Of the 235 English and Welsh National Inventory pubs, only 34 are currently not statutorily listed. Of the rest, two are at Grade I – the George, Southwark, London (where the listing reflects the importance of the building as a whole, not just its interior) and the Philharmonic, Liverpool. The ‘Phil’ was upgraded in 2019 as a result of a joint project by CAMRA and Historic England to improve the listing descriptions of some inventory pubs; the listing here is very much about the magnificent interior.
25 pubs (all English) are Grade II* listed and 174 are at Grade II.
In Scotland, listing is the responsibility of Historic Environment Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Assembly. There are three categories but the proportion of buildings in each is somewhat different from the rest of the UK.
Category A Taking in some 8% of Scotland’s listed buildings, this covers those of national or international architectural or historical importance, or fine little-altered examples of a particular period, style or building type.
Category B This accounts for some 50% of the total and is for buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of a particular period, style or building type but which may have been altered.
Category C These, the remaining 42%, are buildings of local importance or lesser examples of any period, style or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered.
Six National Inventory pubs are listed at Grade A: the Cafe Royal, Kenilworth and Central Bar, all in Edinburgh, the Horse Shoe Bar, Glasgow, the Bull Inn, Paisley and the Feuars Arms, Kirkcaldy.
17 NI pubs are at Grade B, eight at Grade C and two are not listed.
For Northern Ireland, listing is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, which categorises buildings as follows:
Grade A Buildings of greatest importance, including both outstanding architectural set-pieces and the least altered examples of each representative style, period and grouping (around 2.5% of the total).
Grade B1 Buildings which might have merited Grade A except for detracting features such as an incomplete design, lower quality additions or alterations. Also included are buildings that have exceptional features, interiors or environmental qualities (around 6.5% of the total).
Grade B Buildings of local importance and good examples of a particular period or style. A degree of alteration or imperfection may be acceptable.
The stunning Crown Bar in Belfast is listed at Grade A. Nine NI pubs are at Grade B and three are not listed.
Many Regional Inventory pubs throughout the UK are, of course, also statutorily listed.
How To Apply To List A Pub
Anyone can apply for an English building to be listed by completing the online listing and designation application form on the Historic England website, which also has guidance notes for completing the form.
Details on how to propose a building in Scotland for listing can be found on Historic Scotland's website where you can download a Listing Proposal Form which should be sent by email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Details on how to request a listing in Wales can be found on Cadw’s website and your request should be sent by email to <email@example.com>.
Details on how to nominate a Building for Listing in Northern Ireland can be found on the Historic Environment page of the website for the Department for Communities and your request should be sent by email to <HED.SecondSurvey@communities-ni.gov.uk>
Here is more specific information on getting a pub listed.