London’s tall building pipeline slows despite record planning approvals

A record number of high-rise buildings received planning approval in London last year, research by New London Architecture and Knight Frank has found.

The annual survey of high-rise buildings in London found that the number of development applications increased by 26% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of high-rise buildings granted planning permission increased by a quarter, with 341 granted planning permission awaiting construction. According to the report, another 71 projects have obtained planning permission and are awaiting completion of Section 106 agreements.

More than 80,000 new homes are included in the schemes, representing just under two years of Greater London’s current new housing needs, which total 52,000 homes annually.

The survey, however, indicates a slowdown in the construction rate of high-rise buildings in London, with the pipeline of towers over 20 floors falling 1% from 587 to 583. Developers also submitted fewer planning applications in 2021, with the total decreasing by 13.3% from the 2020 level. A total of 72 planning requests were received, 37% less than the market peak in 2018.

Of the applications submitted in 2021, 12 (17%) in total obtained full planning permission in the same year and five others were approved by the planning committee, but had not yet signed the S106 agreements as of December 31.

Peter Murray, Chief Curator of New London Architecture, said: “Signs of a slowdown in results this year are not entirely unexpected; a combination of the uncertainties created by the pandemic, rising construction costs, new safety measures, environmental regulations and increased affordable housing obligations in recent years have forced closer scrutiny of skyscraper development -sky, and that had a ripple effect.

The survey also revealed that the average height of high-rise buildings requested in 2021 was 28 stories. However, the height of projects varied between boroughs, ranging from an average of 31 storeys for applications in central London boroughs, to an average of 25 storeys in the outskirts of London.

Stuart Baillie, head of planning at Knight Frank, said: “The future pipeline may have contracted slightly, but it remains significant. A total of 583 high-rise buildings are proposed or approved, of which 109 are currently under construction, up 28% and 19% from 2016 respectively.

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