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London Skyscraper Ambitions Fall Flat As Schemes Fall 37% Since 2018

The number of new tall building proposals in London has fallen by 37% since 2018.

The number of developers planning to build skyscrapers in London has dropped for the third successive year, an annual study of the city's tall building pipeline has found.

Knight Frank and New London Architecture's annual Tall Building Survey found that planning applications for new tall buildings fell by 13% in 2021 compared to the previous year with applications found to be 37% lower than the market peak in 2018

The figures showed the third consecutive drop in applications. However, despite the fall in new schemes coming forward, 2022 was set to be a record year for completions, with 46 tall buildings expected to be completed during the course of the year.

A total of 341 tall buildings currently have planning permission to go ahead and are awaiting construction, and a further 71 have been approved at planning committee but are yet to sign section 106 agreements.

The overall future pipeline of work fell marginally by 1% from 587 schemes to 583. The survey however stated that the pipeline was expected to fall as the current drop in new schemes fed through over the coming three to four years.

Over the year, 29 new towers began construction, which was the second-lowest level of construction over the nine years that the survey had been conducted.

“Signs of a slowdown in this year’s results is not entirely unexpected," New London Architecture Curator in Chief Peter Murray said. 

"A combination of the uncertainties created by the pandemic, rising build costs, new safety measures, environmental regulations and increased affordable housing obligations in recent years have imposed greater scrutiny on high-rise development and it has had a knock-on effect.”

The current pipeline showed that 109 schemes are currently under construction. Of the schemes that had been completed, over a third (35%) were for the build-to-rent market up from 24% in 2020.

The survey also found that tall buildings are an increasingly deliverable form of development outside of the historically ‘prime’ areas, with 15 buildings completed in outer London in 2021, up from 10 in 2020. Notably, some 35% of the completions last year were for the BTR market, up from 24% the previous year.

“We should not focus on the quantity of tall buildings coming forward, but rather the quality,” Knight Frank Head of Planning Stuart Baillie said. “It is crucial that any tall building delivered not only positively contributes to the economy and sustainability of the capital, but also meaningfully adds value to its local context.”