263 towers planned and around 14,800 new homes under construction for London

New London Architecture (NLA) and GL Hearn have released the results of their annual London Tall Buildings Survey, 12 months since they highlighted that 236 tall buildings were planned for the capital as part of NLA’s London’s Growing Up! Insight Study and exhibition.

The new data finds 263 tall buildings over 20-storeys proposed, approved or under construction within Greater London. This figure includes 76 proposed or in the planning system, 117 with planning approval but not yet on site, and 70 under construction. Compared to last year’s data, this shows a significant increase in the number of towers under construction, up 56% from the 45 projects contained in the 2014 survey. It shows only a small increase of 3% in the number of proposed towers (up from 72), and a 6% decrease in the number of towers with planning approval but not yet on site (down from 113).

In the last 12 months 72 towers over 20-storeys have been submitted for planning approval, 64 of which are residential. Of these, 27 (37%) have been granted planning permission, 4 (6%) have been refused, and 41 (57%) remain undecided.

As London faces an all-time population high of 8.6 million people, and a continuing housing crisis, 62 of the 70 towers currently under construction are residential and could provide approximately 14,800 new homes for the capital. 80% of all 263 towers in the pipeline have a primary residential use, a number of which are likely to have ground floor commercial use.

Deputy Mayor of London for policy and planning, Sir Edward Lister, said:

“London remains a generally low rise city but with the capital set to be home to ten million people by 2030 there is no doubt that sensibly managed and well-designed tall buildings, which sit well within their surroundings, have a key role to play in meeting the challenge of our rapidly increasing population. They help provide the choice of housing that Londoners demand and are making a significant contribution with 14,800 units approved. We are working closely with our Boroughs to identify the best locations for clusters of tall buildings, particularly within our Opportunity Areas and this research shows that the vast majority of tall buildings are being built in carefully planned clusters. It is that strategic approach, combined with robust planning rules, the requirement for top quality design and rigorous scrutiny, that will ensure the capital maintains and enhances its leading world city position alongside a dynamic and evolving skyline.”

East, Central and South London will see the biggest rise in tall buildings, with 93% of all towers under construction and 96% of this year’s planning applications, in line with the GLA’s opportunity areas for large-scale development. Tower Hamlets was at the heart of the tower boom last year and continues to see the most activity, with 18 tall buildings under construction, 27 with planning approval and 14 in planning. Other boroughs with a high concentration of towers under construction are Lambeth (11), Southwark (7) and Newham (7). The areas that have seen the most planning applications over the last 12-months, after Tower Hamlets, are Wandsworth (11), Greenwich (8) and Lambeth (10).

Shaun Andrews, Head of London Strategy at GL Hearn said:

“If London doesn’t grow up, it will need to grow out. London clearly has a healthy pipeline of tall buildings but delivery on the ground has yet to really lift off. Many of the current projects are comprehensive developments with multiple towers in opportunity areas and other zones where high-rise buildings are being supported. However, major schemes currently take an average of 8.3 months to go through the planning system and then six years to reach completion after permission is granted. This defies the concerns of some that tower permissions are being given away. The number of schemes to have actively progressed through the planning system in the past 12 months is relatively small and construction activity will need to step up if London is to capitalise on the potential to increase housing stock.”

Towers gaining planning permission in the last 12 months include Fielden House, a 25-storey tower next to the Shard and designed by Renzo Piano; 40 Leadenhall Street, a 36-storey office tower in the City of London by Make Architects, nicknamed ‘Gotham City’; Taberner House, a 32-storey residential block in Croydon also designed by Make; and a series of residential and mixed-use towers in the Nine Elms Vauxhall opportunity area, including Keybridge House by Allies and Morrison, One Nine Elms by KPF and a series of nine towers as part of the New Covent Garden Market site by SOM and BDP.

The number of towers reaching practical completion this year however, has remained fairly low, with only six towers completing: 20 Fenchurch Street and The Leadenhall Building in the City of London; 250 Blackfriars Roads in Southwark; One Commercial Street in Tower Hamlets; The Tower, One St George Wharf in Lambeth; and Unite Stratford in Newham. On average these towers reached completion six years after planning permission was granted.

Peter Murray, Chairman of NLA, and member of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group said:

“The NLA supports the idea of tall buildings in appropriate locations. The key focus should be on quality of design on the skyline and at ground level. We continue to make the case for a virtual 3D model of London that would help in informing policy makers and the public of proposed changes to the shape of the city. We hope that the debate generated by NLA’s 2014 Insight Study and the latest research will highlight these issues.”

Following the success of last year’s survey, study and exhibition, the NLA and GL Hearn will continue to monitor the development of London’s skyline, providing the public with an annual report of tall buildings proposed for the capital.