The latest edition of the annual New London Architecture (NLA) London Tall Buildings Survey, published in partnership with global property consultancy Knight Frank show there were 98 full planning permissions granted in 2021 – 26% higher than in 2020 and the highest annual figure on record.
Some 56% of permissions were granted in outer London boroughs, including a combined 34 in Newham and Brent.
The high level of permissions granted reflects the bumper crop of applications submitted in 2018 and 2019 which continue to work their way through the system with 51% of consents last year for plans submitted in 2019 or earlier.
The pipeline of 20-storey plus buildings in the capital contracted 1% year-on-year in 2021, while the number of new planning applications put forward by developers as well as new construction starts, both bellwethers for the state of the market, came in lower than long-term trends.
Stuart Baillie, Head of Planning at Knight Frank commented: “Context is essential; the future pipeline may have contracted slightly, but it remains significant. In total, there are 583 tall buildings which are proposed or approved with 109 of those currently under construction, 28% and 19% higher than back in 2016 respectively.”
The average height of tall building applications put forward in 2021 was 28 storeys, with an average of 31 storeys for applications across inner London boroughs to an average of 25 storeys in outer London.
In 2021, a total of 29 tall buildings commenced construction. While this was an increase on 2020, it represents the second lowest level of new starts for tall buildings across London since 2013.
A drop in new starts is consistent with the decline seen in the wider London development market over the last couple of years, while rising build costs and ongoing supply chain disruption is likely to have put a hold on some projects last year especially given the higher costs associated with building tall.
Baillie added: “It should be London’s ambition to be a world leader in delivering exceptionally-designed and highly sustainable tall buildings – and the construction industry plays a vital part in achieving this goal.
“With this in mind, we should not focus on the quantity of tall buildings coming forward, but rather the quality. 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.”