London's skyscraper boom continues with 119 new towers in the pipeline


Over 100 new tall buildings have been proposed for the British capital in the last year, but only a small number are actually being built, according to the latest industry research.

A report released today by New London Architecture (NLA) reveals that, despite a widely publicised campaign to prevent the proliferation of skyscrapers in London, the number of planned high-rises has significantly increased.

A total of 119 buildings of 20 storeys or over have been proposed for the capital since this time last year, and the number of tall buildings under construction has risen from 70 to 89.

Current view of the City of London

NLA chairman Peter Murray described the results as "significant" and has called for more communication from local planning departments to ensure that London residents are fully aware of the proposals.

"It is increasingly important that the planning and development community improves the way it communicates with the wider public," he said.

But he also pledged his support to well-designed skyscrapers, provided they are in strategic locations, and suggested that the situation could be better monitored through the use of digital technologies.

"We believe that well-designed tall buildings in the right place, and well-coordinated clusters, are acceptable," he added. "We continue to press for the mayor to prepare a three-dimensional computer model of the whole of London to better assess the impact of these buildings."

Future vision of London's Southbank

The sentiment is echoed by Edward Lister, London's deputy mayor of planning, who claimed tall buildings are vital to the city's future growth.

"London is in the middle of a population boom that shows no sign of slowing down and it's important we look at a range of options to achieve both the housing and workspace need," he said.

"Tall buildings can play a role in meeting some of that demand and the mayor has ordered a strategic approach to securing world-class architecture for the capital's skyline to ensure they sit well in their surroundings and are of the highest standards possible," he added.

Current view of London's Southbank

The London Tall Buildings Survey 2016 was produced in collaboration with property consultancy GL Hearn, a subsidiary of Capita Real Estate.

It states that 94 towers were submitted for planning permission in the last year, up from 72 in the previous year. As a result, there are now 233 high-rises approved and waiting to start construction.

But the research also shows that only a small percentage of these tall buildings are actually being delivered. Sixteen were completed last year, up from six the year before.

According to Murray, the slow pace of the city's residential development will hold back many of the 436 planned towers.

"The 436 tall buildings in the pipeline is a significant number," he said. "However, with the much publicised softening of the housing market, it remains to be seen how quickly they are delivered."

London's future skyline

But GL Hearn planning director James Cook believes the low level of construction could be down to "the significant development and investment risk required to commit to construct tall buildings".

He claimed it is difficult for any developer to deliver a skyscraper that doesn't demonstrate architectural quality.

"It is clear that delivery is a long way behind the pipeline and the planning system needs to continue to ensure any scheme that comes forward is carefully designed with architecture of the highest quality," he said.

One architecture office is behind a large percentage of the plans – Southwark-based Allies and Morrison has designed 87 of London's proposed high-rises. The firm is yet to comment.

The London borough with the most new towers in the pipeline is Tower Hamlets, with a total of 93.

London's current skyline

NLA completed its first annual investigation into London's tall buildings in 2014. It prompted the launch of the Skyline Campaign, whose quoted aim is to "stop the devastation of London by badly designed tall buildings".

A number of skyscrapers have hit headlines since the campaign was launched. In the City of London, these include the 73-storey 1 Undershaft by Eric Parry Architects and the 62-storey 22 Bishopsgate by PLP Architecture.

Renzo Piano – the architect behind The Shard – also revealed plans for a 254-metre-tall cylindrical tower for Paddington, but withdrew his design following protests against the development, led by the Skyline Campaign.

NLA has also collaborated with visualisation experts Visualhouse to create a specially commissioned image of the future London skyline, as seen at the top of this release.

Visualisations are by Visualhouse and Dan Lowe.

  • Atlas

    That’s progress but not nearly enough. London needs to get over its obsession with sight lines and preserving mediocre Victorian (and terrible 1950s-80s) architecture.

    If the city is to continue to thrive it must build upwards and fast. So severe is the housing crisis at this point that it is virtually a matter of basic humanity.

    • ArchitecturalEdit

      That may be, but there are two-bed flats in the 251 Tower in Elephant and Castle priced at £1.2 million for re-selling (they sold off-plan for £850,000 a year ago!) in a tower that is not even finished.

      None of the housing in these towers will even touch the housing crisis. They are out of most people’s reach.

      • Atlas

        Because there isn’t enough of them. The only reason such flats are so expensive is because London’s housing crisis makes them a good investment. If you want to make high-value apartments cheaper just build more of them.

        • Michaelbach1

          The market failure is that the builders will not build more if the price goes down. Their aim is not to bring the price of housing down. It would not happen anyway.

          There is no shortage of consent for housing – there are 260,000 units in the “pipeline” and only 26,000 were completed last year.

          Similarly there is no shortage of consent for towers, but only 16 were completed last year. London will soon be blighted by sites with consent which do not get implemented – all that happens is they get “banked” and inflate the balance sheets of their owners.

          • Atlas

            They can’t build more, the limit is the planning environment. Go on, put in an application for a high density development in London and see what happens.

        • Physics will always mean it’s more effective to transport people horizontally than vertically. (I <3 urban canyons, but moving from Seattle to Amsterdam has opened my eyes to the value of relatively-short density.)

          • Atlas

            But London can’t have short density either due to the green-built and density zoning.

          • xoviat

            That’s not necessarily true. If elevators recover energy, then the energy requirement for horizontal and vertical movement is similar.

            Without structural constraints, a sphere would minimise the average distance between city locations. With structural constraints (obviously, we’re not building in space), a cylinder is the ideal option. In other words, a circular arrangement of buildings all at the same height.

            Of course, this is not architecturally desirable. However, it does mean that until building heights become larger than (some number larger than) half of the radius of London, increasing building height will always provide better theoretical connectivity.

          • I didn’t mean in operational energy expenditure, but rather in the initial building. Also, as a UX geek, I would be remiss not to point out that lifts are much less enjoyable than walks through diverse environments.

        • johnathan

          That depends on the accumulation of wealth. You can build as many as you want. If only the very rich have access to them and then decide not to live in them but speculate on the market, then there are still many people who need property. Thus demand is kept high and the prices are kept high.

          • Atlas

            You don’t understand basic market forces. Increase supply above demand and prices will fall. They are only high because demand is outstripping supply.

  • James

    The economy will slump before many more of these are built. The doubt created over the referendum will keep investors at arms length until there is security again. Why would a major business invest in a market that could be outside of the European single market soon?

    • Atlas

      Plenty of people are investing despite the referendum, in fact it has not even made a dent in UK investment. The EU is a shackle on the British economy not an advantage.

    • phil

      Britain outside of Europe isn’t worth investing in? Is that what you’re saying? It’s that kind of spirit that won us the wars.

  • Jess Thinkin

    To the publishers of Deezeen, I hope today’s format is not one which we can plan to see from now on. The single lead photograph is what tweaks my interest factor for each article, and serves to motivate my choices and further perusals.

    This combination has served me, and I dare say many other readers, well throughout the many months of subscribing to your sublime online publication.

    • Jess Thinkin

      To those rascally Dezeen publishers. My previous post (immediately above) apparently preempted y’all… Neverrrr Miiinnd! All’s back to the stodgy old familiarity I like to call, ‘normal’.

  • peter feltham

    I think the Walkie Talkie is a hell of a lot more attractive than most of the other low-rise carbuncles that have been built in the metropolis during the previous 40 or so years.

    • The Czech

      And a massive improvement on the awful KB Tower that people forget was blighting the site previously. The sky garden at the top is also epic, and free, unlike the top of the Shard.

    • johnathan

      I question either your eyesight, taste or both.

      • peter feltham

        Yes johnathan, so does my wife.

  • Kay

    Londoners have a very distorted view of high rises. There seems to be this almost innate “no I don’t want this” response, but the alternatives are often very poor and often worse.

    Months and months will go by debating proposals for just one building. That’s what led to the horridness of the 80s/90s bland housing blocks popping up everywhere and polluting the eyesight across the capital. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a bigger philosophical debate to be had about design, ownership, affordability and other aspects of tower construction. But that’s almost a next level of discussion.

    The basis has to be that densifying and going up are imperative to the survival and growth of London as a prime global city. Once we agree to that and properly get to building then the whole idea of living in a tower is no longer so special and the prices will go down.

    Only by building more and more of medium to high rises are we able to actually get rid of the ludicrous million-pound price tags and the shell apartments purchased by foreigners. Once supply increases the prices goes down and rent becomes more affordable across the board, but especially in purpose-built towers. We need to build these for people to live in and only by building more will they start becoming normal and not just oddly shaped geometric shapes that fill up your Instagram feed.

    • johnathan

      This is all very true but I don’t think those that are being built are being built for the people that need them. Why would building more be any different?

      • Kay

        I agreed but I did mention it. Basically building more lowers cost as demand increases. More importantly by having an open approach to going up, we are able to build more affordable projects. The fact that planning takes so long is seriously hampering developers and local housing associations from taking this route. If things were more simple, we’d be able to turn these things into a chance to properly address some of our housing issues. I can’t see it happening because they want this whole market to be “elite” on some level. That helps no one.

  • Benedict

    Bye bye London. It was nice to once see you as a beautiful quaint city unlike any other. I guess next time we cross paths you’ll be just another New York.

    • That’s not fair to New York and its lovely diversity.

      • Kay

        Agree, what an ignorant and general comment. New York is beautiful. Perhaps a comparison with somewhere like Dubai where skyscrapers are built for the “sake of it”. But even in that case I am not so sure as whenever I go there I am always initially skeptical then leave somehow inspired.

  • marmite

    No it isn’t progress. It’s greed and absolutely nothing to do with humanity.

    None of this building work is being done to improve our city. It’s foreign investors who see London as a cash cow. More and more luxury flats so the rich can park their money. None of the housing being built is for the people who live and work here as it’s too expensive. They have no interest in the history or culture of London. Local democracy has been abandoned and we have an egotistical mayor who overrides all decisions made at a local level by local people.

    • Jess Thinkin

      Tell us all little fella, just what exactly is ‘democratic investment’, and how is that (whatever it is) supposed to work?

      • marmite

        You have put ‘democratic investment ‘ in brackets as if I said that? As I didn’t say it I have no idea what you are talking about.

      • johnathan

        What’s currently happening in London is only working for the very few. An entire generation will never own now and those who have lived in the city for generations are being pushed out.

        At least marmite can see that. What we need is solutions and democratic accountability, not democratic investment as you say.

        • Jess Thinkin

          Democratic accountability???

  • Doubtful Dodger

    London needs these towers and it needs a fair proportion of each of them to provide genuinely affordable properties.

  • Abhi

    London is going to be a case study for how to turn one of the most beautiful cities in the world into an eyesore.