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Tall Buildings Survey: London's skyline continues to change

3rd April 2017


  • In 2016 there was almost one tower a week coming out of the ground and a rise in completions at 26
  • In total, 455 tall buildings are currently in the pipeline with the potential to deliver an estimated 100,000 new homes, up from 436 in 2015
  • The number of tall buildings submitted for planning is down 30 per cent since 2015, although this reduction is magnified by last year’s bumper application for Greenwich Peninsula
  • Steady increase in more tall buildings in outer London, up five per cent from 2015

New London Architecture (NLA) with GL Hearn as its research partner and data provided by EG London has announced the results of the latest review of London’s changing skyline. Download the 2017 report here.

Now in its fourth year, the London Tall Buildings Survey provides the only comprehensive review of all towers over 20 storeys proposed, in planning or under construction, providing key information to inform the debate about the changing shape of London. The findings were debated at an oversubscribed free public debate on Friday 31st March 2017.   

There are now 455 towers in the pipeline and despite a tumultuous year with high levels of uncertainty and market disruption due to Brexit, the capital saw construction start on almost one tall building a week. Construction began on 48 tall buildings in 2016, an increase of 68 per cent on the 29 that started in 2015.

Tall buildings are being completed at a significant rate too – there was a 150 per cent increase from 2015 (26 compared to 10), far above any level London has seen before. 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 Survey suggests the pipeline in terms of new applications also remains strong. While the number of tall buildings submitted for planning is down 30 per cent from 2015 (there were 83 tall buildings submitted in 2016 compared to the historic high of 119 submitted in 2015) this was in large part a result of over 40 tall buildings submitted in 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 which received a resolution to grant planning permission five or more years ago but have not started development. With average commencement time of two and half years, some of these tall buildings may not come forward at all. And while the Survey shows no immediate impact of recent market disruption on the overall tall building pipeline, the long timeframes involved in bringing tall buildings forward suggest any effects would likely manifest in coming years.

Chairman of New London Architecture, Peter Murray said; “This is fourth year of the Survey and we’re starting to get a fascinating cumulative picture of how many tall buildings are coming forward, the rate at which they are being delivered and their contribution to meeting London’s housing need.

“The news that the GLA is looking to create a virtual three-dimensional London-wide model is something we welcome and the new London Plan provides a key moment to commission this. There is much progress to be made to ensure this is a practical tool that local communities and those in the development sector can use but this is a step in the right direction. It is vital one is delivered for all of London now.”

The Survey findings also demonstrate that tall buildings continue to play a significant role in addressing London’s housing need.

  • Out of the 26 tall buildings completed last year 24 are residential towers
  • It is estimated 100,000 new homes could be provided across the entire pipeline, or two years’ worth of housing need based on GLA requirements of 50,000 new dwellings per year
  • There are an estimated 65,000 homes currently under construction in London – of those approximately 30 per cent are in tall buildings

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, said: “The Mayor is the guardian of London’s skyline and is committed to ensuring new developments are of the highest possible design standard. Sadiq and I want to ensure new developments make a positive impact on their communities and on the capital as a whole.

“Without doubt, tall buildings have a role to play in London and the forthcoming London Plan will include clear guidelines to help ensure they are built in suitable areas, make a significant contribution to the skyline and, where they include new homes, help ease the capital’s housing crisis.”

James Cook, Planning Director – Head of Residential Planning, 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.”

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