What is a listed building? The Court of Appeal has ruled in a guideline case that two 18th century urns and their pedestals fit the bill. The decision left a landowner who removed the items from his garden without permission at risk of prosecution.
The man was unaware that the lead urns and stone pedestals were listed when he sold them at auction. Some years later, after discovering that they had been removed, the local authority served him with an enforcement notice requiring their restoration to their original locations. The notice was subsequently upheld by a government planning inspector and the man’s challenge to that ruling was rejected by a judge.
In dismissing his appeal against the latter ruling, the Court rejected his plea that the urns and pedestals were not buildings and were thus not capable of being listed as such. On a true interpretation of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the appearance of a structure or object on the list was decisive as to its status as a listed building. The fact that the urns and pedestals might not be viewed as buildings in the broader sense was thus irrelevant.
The anonymity of the person who bought the items at auction, and their subsequent export from the UK, meant that the man faced a difficult task in retrieving them and replacing them in his garden. However, he would face prosecution if he failed to comply with the enforcement notice and, as the offence is one of strict liability, it would be no defence for him to argue that he had acted reasonably.