NLA Survey Results: Over 500 tall buildings coming forward in London

New London Architecture (NLA) has announced the results of its fifth London Tall Buildings Survey, capturing the capital’s changing skyline.

Working with research partner GL Hearn, the study provides the only comprehensive analysis of all tall buildings, over 20 storeys, which are proposed, in planning or under construction in London.

The findings published today (18 April) for 2017 show that despite signs of a slowdown, London has 510 towers in the pipeline and a record number of 115 schemes are under construction, compared to 455 and 91 respectively, in 2016.

Since the first report in 2014, 122 tall buildings have been completed and a further 96 are expected to be complete over the next two years.

Analysis suggests living in tall buildings is becoming increasingly accepted as a key part of our housing mix. Over 90% (458) of the tall buildings coming forward are residential and have the potential to deliver 106,000 new homes.

The Build-to-Rent sector is also featuring more in tall buildings, reflecting the growing demand for well-designed homes for rent and interest from the investment sector. Data from EG shows that 30% of the proposed schemes in 2017 were Build-to-Rent compared with none in 2013.

Predictions in last year’s report that record numbers of applications were unlikely to continue seems to have materialised. Political and economic uncertainty, mainly due to Brexit, appears to have had a small impact. The rate of applications is down 10% from 2016 and 35% from 2015, although this was a bumper year due to the application of Greenwich Peninsula for over 40 tall buildings. If you take this away the number has been relatively consistent since 2013.

The demands on construction have also played a role as the survey indicates that delivering towers has become more challenging with only 18 tall buildings completed in 2017, representing a 30% drop from 2016 when 26 were completed. There was also a 25% fall in the number of tall buildings coming out of the ground with work only starting on 40 in 2017.

Almost a third of the entire pipeline is in Outer London, in zones 3, 4 and 5, particularly in Opportunity Areas and around transport connections, which are considered suitable locations for tall buildings in principal. This includes places like Croydon where the world’s tallest modular tower is coming forward.

Bromley and Waltham Forest have tall buildings in the pipeline for the first time. This leaves just seven boroughs without any towers – Bexley, Enfield, Havering, Hillingdon, Merton, Kensington and Chelsea, and Richmond. But this is expected to change. Looking ahead we would expect locations like Bexley Riverside (Bexley), Meridian Water (Enfield), Hayes (Hillingdon), Kensal Rise (Kensington and Chelsea) and Mordon (Merton) to see some tall buildings proposed in the future given the nature of these locations. The Elizabeth Line, due to fully open from December 2019, will also act as a catalyst in the future bringing forward development along its route, especially in outer boroughs such as Ealing, Redbridge and Newham.

Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture said:

“We continue to see a steady increase in the number of tall buildings coming forward and with London’s population continuing to increase and the demand for new homes only getting higher, our view remains that that well designed tall buildings, in the right place, are part of the solution. Uncertainties and challenges to deliver these tall buildings remain, which is perhaps why we are seeing a slight slowdown in the in the number of applications, construction starts and completions. However our reports over the past five years show us in the right places, towers allow us to use the finite resource of land very efficiently.”

“NLA has long been calling for a 3D model of London to enable developers to place virtual images of their proposed buildings into a wider model of the capital so that developers, planners and the public can more fully understand their impact. We have looked at all of the available systems and are pleased to be working with VU.CITY, whose London model is the largest, most accurate digital model in the world. We urge architects and developers to upload their projects to VU.CITY – a service that is free of charge – so that it can provide London with the tool it needs for better planning and decision making.”

Stuart Baillie, GL Hearn said:

“GL Hearn remains proud of our contribution to this research and the contribution it makes to the debate on planning for London. Whilst there is a notable slowdown in the volume of new tall buildings entering the pipeline compared to the high of 2016, the rate is actually increasing in the boroughs of Southwark, Newham, Hammersmith & Fulham and Croydon. Inner London remains the focus for the majority of tall building but Waltham Forest and Bromley feature in the pipeline for the first time.”

“It is clear from the report findings that tall buildings make a substantial contribution towards realising London’s housing targets and in those boroughs where there are multiple tall buildings in the pipeline, this is a significant contribution towards borough housing need.”