The law contains a number of criminal offences aimed at protecting historic buildings and sites and at ensuring the appropriate consents are sought when necessary. Without their existence and enforcement, the heritage laws preserving and conserving of our heriitage would be able to be cirrcumvented with impunity. Even so, a prosecution may be ineffective in restoring a building or site to its previous state, but it will deter future harm by the wrongdoers and others and ensure those who comply with the law are not disadvantaged; howeve whilst the English Heritage site states that the offence runs with the building, this is clearly nonsense as the offence is one in which the offence is committed by the person who carried out the works (possibly a builder) and by anyone who caused them to be carried out (someone instructing a builder).
It is an offence to carry out works that require listed building consent without such a consent being obtained.
…So, if you’re buying a building, you can’t be prosecuted for the original offence of the “tampering” with a listed building without obtaaining the necessary listeed building consent. To do so would require the wholesale revocation of the Human Rights Acts. You can only commit an offence IF YOU committed the offence (this captures the person doing the work) or aided and abetted the commission of the offence this captures the person who instructed the individual committing the offence – i.e. usually the building owner).
However, not all works require listed building consent, only demolition or works of alteration or extension that affect the character of the building as a building of special architectural or historic interest.
“To be of special architectural interest a building must be of importance in its architectural design, decoration or craftsmanship; special interest may also apply to nationally important examples of particular building types and techniques (eg buildings displaying technological innovation or virtuosity) and significant plan forms.” (Source: English Heritage) .
“To be of special historic interest a building must illustrate important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural, or military history and/or have close historical associations with nationally important people. There should normally be some quality of interest in the physical fabric of the building itself to justify the statutory protection afforded by listing.”(Source: English Heritage) .
These are very narrowly defined terms and should not be confused with similar terms such as Archaelogical Interest or Heritage Value. However, these have been widely contested in Court over the years and even so, the interpretation or these phrases varies as does their application once interpreted and therefore legal advise from a legal specialist should be sought.