Legislation & Planning

The majority of thatched buildings are listed or in conservation areas and as such are subject to greater controls on development than other buildings. This includes certain designations, as well as planning permission and building regulations. Consent decisions are governed by the interpretation of this legislation. Below are outlines of this legislation and guidance, and how they apply to thatch.

Before making any changes always check with the local planning authority which consents are required.

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Listed building consent

If you wish to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend it in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority. Whether or not re-thatching requires listed building consent will depend on the effect of the works on the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest. Consent is not required unless this character is affected.

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Click here to read more about what work needs listed building consent…
As a rule listed building consent will be required to any thatching works that:

  • Change in the form or shape (including inserting a dormer) of the roof and/or ridge.
  • Removal of the entire thatch.
  • Change the method i.e. between long straw, combed wheat reed and water reed of the thatched roof, including the ridge and spar-coats.
  • Change in style of the thatched roof, including the ridge.
  • Change in material of the thatched roof, including the ridge and spar-coats. This includes a change from long straw to combed wheat reed; botanically identical, but prepared differently.
  • Removal of materials which is clearly of archaeological or historical importance e.g. smoke-blackened thatch.
  • Other categories may be added to protect local techniques e.g. the use of fixings.

It is the responsibility of the building owner to justify any proposal of these changes. Therefore it is beneficial that the owner works with their thatcher to liaise with the local authority, so that if required, these can be explained and discussed. Supporting information that may be relevant includes:

  • A brief history of the building, with reference to the thatch.
  • Evidence of the nature and provenance of thatching materials previously used and proposed.
  • A method statement and drawings of proposed works.
  • Reference to local authority guidance documents.

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National Planning Policy Framework

This is the Government policy and guidance document to support planning decisions for the historic environment and heritage assets.

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In March 2012, the Government published the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is a key part of Government reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, to protect the environment and to promote sustainable growth. This supersedes Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment (PPS5) as Government Policy on the management of change to the Historic Environment in England. Please note, the PPS5 Practice Guide remains a valid and Government endorsed document pending the results of a review of guidance supporting national planning policy. The references to PPS5 policies in this document are obviously now redundant, but the policies in the NPPF are very similar and the intent is the same, so the Practice Guide remains almost entirely relevant and useful in the application of the NPPF.

› Here is a link to the document: PPS5 Practice Guide 

Item 165, p.45 of this document states:

“Replacement of one material by another, for example on roofs, may result in a loss of significance and will in those cases need clear justification. Therefore, while the replacement of an inappropriate and non-original material is likely to be easily justified, more justification will be needed for changes from one type of thatch, slate or tile to another. For thatch, for example, preserving the covering on multi-layered roofs, particularly where the bottom layer is smoke-blackened, is likely to be necessary in order to maintain the historic and archaeological significance of the building. Only the top coat may need to be replaced. Following the type and form of thatch traditional to the region with local ways of detailing eaves, ridges and verges will sustain the building’s significance. English Heritage has published specific guidance on thatching: Thatch and Thatching: A Guidance Note (English Heritage, 2000)”.

Click here to link to English Heritage’s Thatch and Thatching Guidance Note.

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Local Authority Guides

Several local authorities have published guidance on their vernacular style and material. It is useful to consult this to ensure that any proposed works to not go against this advice.

Click here to see a list of these.

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Building regulations

Any new thatch work will have to comply with Building Regulations. Read how this relates to thatch here [insert link to Dorset model pdf]. You can contact the local authority planning office for further advice.

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Compliance with Part L Building regulations

To reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels and to cut carbon dioxide emissions the Government has set national targets.  These aim to reduce carbon emissions by 33% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels.

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The Government’s key method of regulating energy use in buildings is through the Building Regulations, which set minimum standards for new work on a property. Part L covers building regulations requirements with respect to Conservation of fuel and power.

Building Regulations only apply to new building work and there is no general requirement for all existing buildings to be upgraded to meet these standards. However, certain material alterations, such as changing the use or renewing parts of a building can trigger the need to comply with Building Regulations.

English Heritage has published a series of guidance notes to help prevent conflicts between the requirements of Part L and the conservation of historic and traditionally constructed buildings. If or manage a listed building or scheduled monument or a building within a conservation area you may be limited in the scope of energy improvement works you can carry out, particularly if these are changes that might affect the external appearance of the building.

Click here to see the list of publications, including those that relate to thatch 

With regards thatch this includes:

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Planning permission

The government website www.planningportal.gov.uk  explains when and how to apply for this.

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