A listed building in the United Kingdom is a building which has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. It is a widely used status, applied to around half a million buildings.
A listed building may not be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority (who typically consult the relevant central government agency, particularly for significant alterations to the more notable listed buildings). Exemption is provided for some churches in current use for worship, although in such cases the church organisation operates its own permissions procedure. Owners of listed buildings are, in some circumstances, compelled to repair and maintain them and can face criminal prosecution if they fail to do so or if they perform unauthorised alterations. When alterations are permitted, or when listed buildings are repaired or maintained, the owners are often compelled to use specific (and potentially expensive) materials or techniques. This, in turn, increases the cost of insuring the building. Listing can also limit the options available for significant expansion or improvement. For these reasons, the law allows owners of listed buildings to object to the listing.
Although most structures appearing on the lists are buildings, other structures such as bridges, monuments, sculptures, war memorials, and even milestones and mileposts may also be listed. Ancient, military and uninhabited structures (such as Stonehenge) are sometimes instead classified as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and protected by much older legislation whilst cultural landscapes such as parks and gardens are currently "listed" on a non-statutory basis. In England, this complex system may be rationalised under the Heritage Protection Review (see below).
Although a limited number of 'ancient monuments' were given protection under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882, it was the damage to buildings caused by Nazi bombing during World War II that prompted the first listing of buildings that were of deemed to be of particular architectural merit. 300 members of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings were dispatched to prepare the list under the supervision of the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments, with funding from the Treasury. The listings were used as a means of determining whether a particular building should be rebuilt if it was damaged by bombing, with varying degrees of success.
The basis of the current more comprehensive listing process was developed from the wartime system and was enacted by a provision in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. In 1980 there was public outcry at the sudden destruction of the art deco Firestone Factory (Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, 1928-29), which was demolished over the August bank holiday weekend by its owners Trafalgar House who had been told that it was likely to be 'spot-listed' a few days later, and the Government undertook to review arrangements for listing buildings. After the Firestone demolition, the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine also initiated a complete re-survey of buildings to ensure there was nothing which merited preservation and had been missed off the lists.
In England and Wales the authority for listing is granted by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and is presently administered by English Heritage, an agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Cadw in Wales (where it is a devolved issue). Listed buildings in danger of decay are listed on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register.
There are three types of listed status (in descending order of "importance" and difficulty to obtain planning permission):
There was formerly a non-statutory Grade III, which was abolished in 1970. Additionally, Grades A, B and C were used mainly for Anglican churches in use – these correspond to Grades I, II* and II. These grades were used mainly before 1977, although a few buildings are still listed using these grades.
As of 2008, the draft Heritage Protection Bill is currently subject to pre-legislative scrutiny before its passage through Parliament. If the Bill is introduced and passed in the 2008–09 session, the new system could be implemented in 2010. The proposal is that the existing registers of buildings, parks and gardens, archaeology and battlefields, maritime wrecks, and World Heritage Sites will be merged into a single online register which will "explain what is special and why". The existing Grades I, II* and II, currently used for buildings, will be retained for all types of asset. English Heritage will become responsible for identifying Historic Assets in England and there will be wider consultation with the public and asset owners, and new rights of appeal. There will be streamlined systems for granting consent for work on Historic Assets. 
In July 2009, there were approximately 373,000 listings in place, of which 343,000 (92%) were Grade II, 20,500 (5.5%) were Grade II*, and 9,300 (2.5%) were Grade I. Forty five per cent of Grade I buildings are Church of England parish churches. There are estimated to be about 500,000 actual buildings listed, as listing entries can apply to more than one building. The criteria for listing include architectural interest, historic interest and close historical associations with significant people or events. Buildings which are not individually noteworthy may still be listed if they form part of a group that is – for example, all the buildings in a square. Sometimes large areas comprising many buildings may not warrant listing but are given the looser protection of designation as a conservation area. Additionally, buildings which fall within the plot or curtilage belonging to a listed building, but which are not themselves listed, are subject to additional development controls and restrictions similar to the listed structure itself.
Government general policy is to list all buildings erected before 1700 "which survive in anything like their original condition" and most buildings of 1700–1840. More selection is exercised among buildings of the Victorian period and the 20th century. Buildings less than 30 years old are rarely listed, and buildings less than 10 years old never.
Although the decision to list may be made on the basis of the architectural or historic interest of one small part of the building, the listing protection nevertheless applies to the whole building. However, work may be more readily granted permission for alterations to the non-listed portions of the built fabric.
In March 2007, The Department for Culture, Media and Sport proposed in a government white paper major reforms to the system in England and Wales. This was the culmination of a 4 year review process. If approved, the term Listed Building will be replaced by Designated Structure. This was a result of a wide-ranging review to rationalize designations in which Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Listed Landscapes on the non-statutory parks and gardens register, monuments and maritime heritage sites would all also become Designated Structures or Sites. It is proposed that the three Grades I, II* and II should apply to all Designated Buildings and Sites.
If approved by Parliament, managing these new proposals will be the sole responsibility of English Heritage instead of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as at present.
See also Category:Grade I listed buildings for examples of such buildings across England and Wales
See also Category:Grade II* listed buildings for examples of such buildings across England and Wales
See also Category:Grade II listed buildings for examples of such buildings across England and Wales
Many councils, for example, Birmingham City Council, maintain a list of Locally listed buildings as separate to the statutory list (and in addition to it). There is no statutory protection of a building or object on the local list. Councils hope that owners will recognise the merits of their properties and keep them unaltered if at all possible.
These grades are used by Birmingham:
Listed buildings in Northern Ireland are administered by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, under powers granted by Article 42 of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.
The scheme of listing is as follows:
In Scotland the Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 applies. As with other powers regarding planning, conservation is a power devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. Historic Scotland is the agency charged by the Scottish Government for protecting listed buildings and scheduled monuments.
The scheme for classifying buildings is:
As of 2007, approximately 8% of listings are category A, 60% are category B, and 32% are category C(s).
A listed building in the United Kingdom is a building or other structure officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance. It is a widely used status. Around half a million buildings are listed buildings in the UK.