London’s apparently insatiable appetite for massive light-blocking skyscrapers is continuing apace, with a huge number planned for the city, though there may be some signs that the trend for towers is slightly slowing down.
The 2022 annual Tall Buildings Survey recently published by New London Architecture reveals that there are 583 buildings of 20 or more storeys either planned or in construction across the capital. The so-called ‘pipeline’ shows that 341 towers have full planning permission, 109 are already being built, 71 have partial permission, there are 55 applications pending and seven tall buildings have apparently stalled during construction.
Okay, so this is a LOT. Incredibly, the pipeline is actually a bit smaller than in 2021, when it had 587 projects pumping through it. Nonetheless, this huge number of looming towers – if they are seen through to completion – will alter the London skyline dramatically.
There are some projects that are already attracting controversy, such as a proposed 26-storey block adjacent to the Shard at London Bridge, which has yet to receive planning permission, but which people fear will block views of both its lofty neighbour and St Paul’s Cathedral on the opposite side of the Thames.
However, it’s not all about the capital’s most-Instagrammed tourist sites. A trend that the report identifies is the proliferation of new towers across more outlying areas of the capital. Peter Murray OBE, curator-in-chief of NLA, says in his foreword to the report, ‘groups of taller buildings in White City, Elephant & Castle, Greenwich Peninsula and the City of London reflect a sea change in the shape of the city’.
Interestingly, while the number of planning permissions being granted is higher than ever (98 approved in the last year) for tall buildings, the number of new applications has dropped every year since 2018: maybe an indication that the capital’s skyscraper boom is slowing down, with investors more wary of these giant projects and the giant losses they can represent.
Either way, there are a lot of tall boys (literally) on the horizon. As Murray concludes, ‘Whether or not we are going to see a reduction in the number of new towers in the future, the face of London has already changed irreversibly over the past two decades, and with a further 500 or so to come, those changes will be even further reinforced.’
So London’s looking up. Maybe not necessarily in a good way.