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  • Writer's pictureEddie H

London tall building during pandemic year 2020

The number of tall buildings that started construction in London almost halved in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, the London Annual Tall Buildings survey has revealed.

The survey, compiled by New London Architecture (NLA) in partnership with Knight Frank, found that 24 tall buildings commenced construction in 2020, down from 44 the previous year. The report defines a tall building as anything over six stories or 18m in height.

According to the NLA report, despite a significant slowdown during the spring and summer of 2020, the pandemic did not result in the sustained downturn that many commentators feared during the pandemic. The current pipeline of work, which includes buildings either in planning or construction, has risen by almost eight per cent to 587 buildings, up from 544 in 2019.

The survey also revealed a growing trend for tall buildings in the London suburbs, with outer boroughs now accounting for almost four in 10 new tall buildings. A total of 127 tall buildings are currently under construction in the capital, down more than 45 per cent on the previous year.

Peter Murray, curator in chief at NLA, said more tall buildings would be essential to meet new housing targets.

“With boroughs having greater powers around location and scale, west London boroughs that are experiencing negative local responses to new development may struggle to meet their number targets while east London boroughs where there is less resistance to high rise will continue to come top in the charts,” he said.

In terms of size, 65 per cent of all tall buildings are between 20 and 29 stories in height, a further 25 per cent are between 30 and 39 stories, and the remaining 11 per cent were more the 40 stories in height. The tallest buildings were on average found in the City of London, which averaged 39 stories, with the smallest in Sutton, averaging 21 stories high.

Although planning approvals rose by 10.8 per cent in 2020, applications overall fell by more than a quarter from 107 to 75. The impact of the first wave of the pandemic on the construction industry was apparent, with figures showing that three quarters of all applications for tall buildings in 2020 were made in the second half of the year, after the UK emerged from its first national lockdown.

Tim Clark

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