A record level of planning permissions were granted for tall buildings in the capital last year, increasing by a quarter compared to 2020. More than 109 tall building schemes are now actively under construction across the capital, while 341 tall buildings currently have planning permission to go ahead and are awaiting construction.
Another 71 have been granted planning permission but are yet to signed off funds for the council as part of developer contributions to the community. It brings the total number of tall buildings in the pipeline in London to nearly 600. The high-rises are expected to provide 82,000 new homes – or a little under two years’ worth of housing need based on City Hall requirements of 52,000 new dwellings a year. Commercial buildings for office and shop use account for just 13 per cent of the total pipeline.
The data suggests that this year could be a bumper crop for high-rise completions, with 46 tall buildings expected to complete this year – a third up on the 2021 total. Tall buildings are also shifting towards outer London, with 88 tall buildings in Zones 3 and 4, and 41 in Zone 5, the analysis shows. But high-rises are on the rise across London, with 26 boroughs having new tall buildings in the pipeline.
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(Image: Frerk Meyer)
The findings come in the 2022 edition of the annual New London Architecture (NLA) London Tall Buildings Survey, published in partnership with global property consultancy Knight Frank. While more high-rises are being actively built, there is a downward trend in planning applications, suggesting the number of new mega-towers could slowly reduce once this crop is built.
Stuart Baillie, Head of Planning at Knight Frank said: “The survey points to a record level of permissions being granted last year, up 26 per cent on 2020, and the number of completed projects was robust. Context is essential: the future pipeline may have contracted slightly, but it remains significant. In total, there are 583 tall buildings which are proposed or approved with 109 of those currently under construction, 28 per cent and 19 per cent higher than back in 2016 respectively.”
“What is coming through the planning system and out of the ground is increasingly across the outer London boroughs (Zones 3, 4 and 5), as well as for the Build to Rent sector, mirroring the trend in the wider new-build housing market”.
But some architects are concerned about the rise of the London high rise. Lewis Barton, director of Barton Architects, told MyLondon: “Most good city planners have known for a long time – since at least the 60s – that infill with medium rise of five to eight storeys is the best use of space and material. With landscaping and amenities it creates the sort of space people want to live in.
“However they don’t provide the return on investment that investors crave, nor the density figures that politicians like. This means we try to cram skyscrapers in among existing suburban sprawl, which is a nasty little habit that creates further problems down the line.”
“Lots of developments are rumbling on in the background without being picked up, and because of the twisted planning system, many go through on a nod and a wink. We then end up with neighbourhoods, like Lewisham or Battersea Reach, where the environment is dominated by very tall buildings with suspect landscaping schemes trying to tie them all together.”
Mr Barton pointed to frequent problems with high-rises, ranging from needing complex firefighting strategies, to lifts frequently becoming inoperable. The average height of tall building applications put forward in 2021 was 28 storeys, though this varies by borough, with an average of 31 storeys for applications across inner London boroughs to an average of 25 storeys in outer London.
There were 98 full planning permissions granted in 2021, a third higher than in 2020, and the highest annual figure on record. Last year, a total of 29 tall buildings began construction. Tall buildings are those of 20 storeys or above in height that are at various stages from application to construction. The data for 2021 refers to the period from 1st January 2021 until 31st December 2021.
The warning comes after residents at a “luxury” tower block in Canary Wharf have complained of leaks, power cuts, lift failures and mould among a raft of other problems. Some flats have rents of more than £4,000 a month in the UK’s tallest residential building, Landmark Pinnacle – a 233-metre high skyscraper in East London. The Tower Hamlets tower block formally opened last June and its dedicated sales website boasts that “state of the art” amenities on offer include “a private cinema” a “magical children’s play area, together with a more formal garden lounge for adults, lounge and library”. The promotional materials also boast the top floor (75) is “crowned by two roof terraces offering panoramic views across London”.
Jack Dowson, a resident since March 2021, told MyLondon: “The only currently open amenity [as of March 2022] is the gym. Nothing else is open. The indoor garden was meant to be open by now. And it’s been nine or 10 months since mine and other residents’ windows have been cleaned.”
MyLondon put the claims about Landmark Pinnacle to the owners but had not received a response for publication. However, MyLondon understands they reject the claims from residents in this piece and attribute some of the delays to the pandemic.
Josiah joined MyLondon as the outlet’s first City Hall Editor in October 2021, reporting on the Mayor, the London Assembly, the Met police, Transport for London, and wider London politics.
He moved to South London from Brussels in 2015, working in communications for the Electoral Reform Society, and covering Westminster politics as a freelance journalist. Originally from Cornwall, he is now also a proud Londoner. Josiah has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and other outlets to discuss current affairs and general political chaos.
If you have an untold story – whether it’s a housing nightmare, an unfair decision or a local scandal, get in touch at [email protected] or contact Josiah on Twitter.
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