A Tower A Week: Tall building construction is ‘far above any level London has seen before’

24 of the 26 tall towers completed in London last year were for residential use

2016 saw one new tall tower come out of the ground almost every week in London, according to a survey by New London Architecture and GL Hearn. And resi towers are taking the lead.

The number of completions also stepped up by a dramatic 150%, reaching 26 finished towers for the year (just 10 were completed in 2015). That’s “far above any level London has seen before” say the report’s authors, despite widely-reported market uncertainty because of Brexit, etc, and JLL’s recent findings that new residential unit starts in the capital have tanked by a “staggering” 75% in recent months.

Of the 26 tall buildings completed last year, 24 are residential towers. EGi data indicates that there are around 65,000 homes currently under construction in London – roughly 30% of which are in tall buildings.

In total, 455 tall buildings are currently in the pipeline, with the potential to deliver around 100,000 new homes, up from 436 in 2015.

Construction began on 48 tall buildings in 2016, an increase of 68% on the 29 that started in 2015. 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. To put that in perspective, a total of 60 tall buildings have been completed in the capital since the NLA and GL Hearn started doing this annual survey four years ago.

It’s not all upward-trajectories, though. The number of tall buildings submitted for planning is down 30% since 2015 (there were 83 tall buildings submitted in 2016 compared to the historic high of 119 submitted in 2015), although this reduction is magnified by last year’s bumper application for Greenwich Peninsula (which saw plans put in for 40+ new structures). Strip out the Greenwich anomaly and “the 2016 figure is remarkably similar to every year going back to 2013”; there’s been a steady 5% year-on-year increase in the number of tall buildings in outer London.

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.

Ten stats on London’s tall tower pipeline

  1. A record number of 26 tall buildings completed in 2016, compared to 10 in 2015. Over the last decade, the average number of tall building completions has been just six per annum
  2. A record number of starts – almost one a week. 48 tall buildings started construction in 2016, an increase of 68% on 2015, when it was 29
  3. 83 new tall buildings were submitted for planning this year – down 30% on the year before at 119, which saw 40+ tall buildings submitted in Greenwich Peninsula
  4. The total pipeline of tall buildings in London which are proposed, approved and under construction has increased marginally to 455 in 2016, up from 436 in 2015
  5. 24 of London’s 33 boroughs have a tall building pipeline. We are seeing a small shift towards outer London, with 82 tall buildings in zones 3-4 and 25 in zone 5
  6. 60 new tall buildings have completed in the three years since the first London Tall Buildings Survey, and 91 are currently under construction. By 2019, NLA estimates that 152 new tall buildings will have completed since the original Survey
  7. An estimated 30% of homes currently under construction in London are in tall buildings
  8. 256 tall buildings currently have planning permission to go ahead and are awaiting construction. But 31 tall buildings which received planning over five years ago are still not on site
  9. 100,000 new homes are estimated across the entire tall buildings pipeline, or two years’ worth of housing need based on GLA requirements of 50,000 new dwellings per annum
  10. The entire pipeline is estimated to cover 38 hectares

Chairman of New London Architecture, Peter Murray: “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.”

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe: “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.”

“The picture that this Survey presents is a wholly positive one given recent market disruption”

James Cook, Planning Director – Head of Residential Planning, GL Hearn: “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.”

EG’s Paul Wellman: “EG Data reveals tall buildings continue to come through the planning system, at a staggeringly high level, especially relative to just five to ten years ago. If Londoners haven’t noticed the activity of tall buildings around them, they soon will. That’s because more and more are getting off the drawing board and are coming out of the ground. Although transactions at the top end of the market may be waning, values remain stubbornly high for the average Londoner. Tall buildings more focused on the rental market and further out in to the suburbs is a feature we are likely to see more of in the coming years.”

Tall buildings completed in 2016

Barnet Southwark

  • Hendon Waterside P3a (West Hendon Estate), West Hendon Broadway; Allies and Morrison, Barratt Metropolitan


  • XY Apartments (Maiden Lane Estate), Maiden Lane; PRP Architects, LB Camden


  • Ruskin Square – Phase 1; AHMM, Stanhope PLC
  • Saffron Square, Wellesley Road; Rolfe Judd Architects, Berkeley Homes PLC


  • 2 x Royal Arsenal – Phase 4 (Over Station); Allies and Morrison, Berkeley Homes


  • Woodberry Down (Kss 3) – Skyline; Rolfe Judd, Berkeley Homes

Hammersmith & Fulham

  • Imperial Wharf – Chelsea Creek, Imperial Road; Squire & Partners, St George


  • Canaletto, 257-259 City Road; UNStudio, Groveworld
  • Lexicon, 261 City Road; SOM, Mount Anvil


  • Lewisham Gateway (Portrait – Phase 1a); PRP Architects, Muse Developments


  • 2 x Hoola – Tidal Basin Tower, 26-34 Tidal Basin Road; CZWG, Hub Residential
  • International Quarter – Glasshouse Gardens; Allies and Morrison, Lendlease and LCR
  • One The Elephant (Elephant Leisure Centre), 22 Elephant & Castle; PKS Architects, Oakmayne Properties
  • Elephant 1 (Elephant One); Squire & Partners, Lend Lease

Tower Hamlets

  • 2 x Aldgate Place (Aldgate Union), Buckle Street; Allies and Morrison, Barratt London / British Land
  • Baltimore Tower; SOM, Galliard Homes
  • Dollar Bay, Lawn House Close; SimpsonHaugh and Partners, Mount Anvil
  • Horizons (Former Car Park Site), Preston’s Road; RMA Architects, Telford Homes
  • 2 x Lincoln Plaza / Canary Quarter (Indescon Court), 20 Millharbour; BFLS, Galliard Homes
  • 15-17 Leman Street; David Miller Architects, Pinehill Capital
  • London City Island – Phase 1; Glenn Howells Architects, Ballymore Group
  • Novotel; BUJ Architects, Accor

Download the full London Tall Buildings Survey report here