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London's tall buildings in valuable statistics

Words:
Catherine Staniland

NLA's annual report on the capital's towers reveals the truth of new housing provision and changing attitudes to the typology

Proposed towers in Croydon, visualised by Hayes Davidson.
Proposed towers in Croydon, visualised by Hayes Davidson.

For the past 10 years NLA has produced an annual report on tall buildings in the city. Back in 2014 we’d become aware of their growing number, but there was no central source that would tell you how many were planned. Our research was intended to inform the public, the profession and policy-makers, enabling better decisions about where tall buildings should be and what role they should play.

Using a height of 20 storeys as the benchmark, we found 236 towers in design or development, which caused quite a stir. This year’s report shows that over the last decade we've delivered 270 buildings over 20 storeys across Greater London. Of those, around 200 are in central boroughs, and 70 are in outer London – a growing trend that hasn't been fully acknowledged. A further 583 are in the pipeline.

We’ve also calculated that those tall buildings have provided some 58,000 housing units. As the London Plan target is 52,000 homes each year, that’s equivalent to a year's worth of London's housing over that period.

According to a survey we commissioned, housing need is changing Londoners’ perceptions of tall buildings. In 2014, a 53% of respondents said that a tall building’s appearance in context should be the highest priority in awarding consent; in 2024 a majority cite provision of affordable housing as the most important factor.

Other emerging trends include a much greater emphasis on mixed-use – 84% of all 2023 tall building applications – and unusual programmes, including labs. Adaptive reuse of existing towers is a key topic, along with adaptable design.

Looking ahead, we see quite a lot of uncertainty. In 2021, the London Plan set a new low threshold for tall buildings at six storeys, prompting many boroughs to take a stricter stance. The new requirement for second staircases has slowed delivery, as has increased construction costs. But the City, for example, has seen eight tall buildings completed in the last decade, and another 11 in the pipeline up to 2030. And as London’s population heads towards 10 million, tall buildings will play a vital role in its future.

 

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