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‘Year of the tall building’ as skyscrapers spread across London

How London could look when skyscraper pipeline is built out
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London’s skyscraper epidemic is spreading with the number of tall buildings set to appear in the capital’s outer boroughs growing by a fifth last year

Research by New London Architecture uncovered a pipeline of 175 towers outside the city centre, each at least 20 storeys tall. This was up 19 per cent from 147 the previous year.

At the end of 2018, the overall pipeline of tall buildings in the capital was 541, with almost one in three located in outer boroughs.

The NLA’s London Tall Buildings Survey found that 60 skyscrapers could be completed this year – more than in the two previous years combined.

‘With more planning approvals in 2018 than 2017 and a slower rate of completions … the total number of tall buildings in the pipeline continues to build up,’ said the study.

‘Tall buildings are taking longer to complete, and this can be for multiple reasons, such as skills shortages, changing project delivery timescales and financial viability issues. In other cases, over-optimistic predictions can play a role in increasing the number of expected completions in a certain year.

‘However, in considering the statistics of the preceding two years, it is conceivable that more than 60 tall buildings could be completed in 2019.’

The number of planning applications for tall buildings in 2018 fell slightly from the previous year, from 78 to 75.

There was an increase in planning permissions with 72 towers granted consent last year compared with 63 in the previous 12 months.

Construction began on 38 tall buildings in 2018, a decrease of two from the previous year. Completion was arrived at on 25, an increase from 18 in 2017.

Almost half the overall tall buildings pipeline was in east London at the end of 2018, although the exact proportion was down from 50 per cent to 48 per cent.

West London saw the biggest growth in share of the pipeline, up from 15 per cent to 17 per cent.

New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray declared 2019 as ‘the year of the tall building’.

Tall buildings are now an established component of London’s development programme

‘This year’s research confirms that tall buildings are now an established component of London’s development programme,’ he said. ‘In spite of the current political uncertainty the pipeline remains steady.’

Murray said quality was more important than quantity.

2026 view from city hall looking north (credit gmj and city of london corporation) smaller

2026 view from city hall looking north (credit gmj and city of london corporation) smaller

Source: GMJ and City of London Corporation

2026 view from City Hall looking north

‘For us the importance has to be on the design quality of tall buildings, both in their impact on the skyline and how they interact with the environment at street level. The NLA continues to call for the greater use of computer modelling by planners to assess the impact of taller buildings.’

London’s deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe backed the soaring number of skyscrapers expected on London’s streets.

‘The mayor and I are clear that, when located in the right place and designed with their surroundings firmly in mind, tall buildings have a role to play in meeting the needs of our rapidly expanding city, by providing much-needed homes and space for businesses,’ he said.

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