Construction began on a record number of skyscrapers in London last year with an additional 455 towers planned for the capital.
The Canary Wharf and Docklands areas are particular focal points for construction with 77 skyscrapers planned in the borough of Tower Hamlets and 68 in Greenwich. These were the two highest numbers for any of London’s 33 boroughs.
Now in its fourth year, the London Tall Buildings Survey provides a comprehensive review of all towers over 20 storeys proposed, in planning or under construction across the capital.
The survey is a collaboration between New London Architecture (NLA) and its research partner GL Hearn, with data provided by EG London Residential Research.
According to the survey there are now 455 towers in the pipeline, of which 420 are marked out for residential use and a further seven of which will be student accommodation. This means there is potential for an additional 100,000 homes, according to the report.
Despite uncertainty due to Brexit, the capital saw construction start on almost one tall building a week in 2016. Construction began on 48 tall buildings in 2016, an increase of 68pc on the 29 that started in 2015.
Tall buildings are being completed at a significant rate too – there was an 150pc increase from 2015 (26 compared to 10), far above any level London has seen before.
While the majority of the proposed buildings will have 30 floors or fewer, 27 will have 50 floors and above.
There are currently close to 100 tall buildings under construction, many of which are at late stages of construction – 28 are expected to complete in 2017 and 40 in 2018. Since the survey began four years ago 60 tall buildings have been completed.
The report suggests the pipeline in terms of new applications also remains strong.
While the number of tall buildings submitted for planning is down 30pc from 2015 (there were 83 tall buildings submitted in 2016 compared to the historic high of 119 in 2015), this was in large part a result of more than 40 tall buildings submitted for Greenwich Peninsula alone. Take that anomaly away and the 2016 figure is remarkably similar to every year going back to 2013.
However, what the future will look like is less clear. The survey identifies 31 tall buildings that received a resolution to grant planning permission five or more years ago but have not started development. With an average commencement time of two and a half years, some of these tall buildings may not be built at all. Builders can withdraw their application at any point; the longer they leave it before starting, the more chance that something will occur to disrupt a project.
While the report shows no immediate impact of recent market disruption – such as the uncertainty caused by Brexit – on the overall pipeline, the long timeframes involved in bringing tall buildings forward suggest any effects would only manifest in coming years.
James Cook, head of residential planning at GL Hearn, said: “It is very encouraging to see that London remains a leading city for tall buildings. The strong pipeline for housing will help meet the city’s demanding housing need and deliver real value back into the economy – and allied to wider policy aspirations for increasing density and preventing urban sprawl, tall building development is here to stay.
“The picture that this survey presents is a wholly positive one given recent market disruption. The time it takes to bring forward tall buildings however means that any impacts on planned investments may not be seen immediately and the markets’ response during the course of this year will be fascinating.”
EG’s Paul Wellman said: “EG Data reveals tall buildings continue to come through the planning system, at a staggeringly high level, especially relative to just five to 10 years ago. If Londoners haven’t noticed the activity of tall buildings around them, they soon will.
“That’s because more and more are getting off the drawing board and are coming out of the ground. Although transactions at the top end of the market may be waning, values remain stubbornly high for the average Londoner. Tall buildings more focused on the rental market and further out in to the suburbs is a feature we are likely to see more of in the coming years.”
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