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Signs of developer confidence picking up, as study looks at new planned London skyscrapers

Joanna Bourke
·2-min read
<p>A new study has looked at planned new buildings in London that are 20 storeys or above</p> (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A new study has looked at planned new buildings in London that are 20 storeys or above

(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Planning applications for ‘tall buildings’ in London dropped last year, but nearly three quarters of those lodged were in the second half, as investor confidence looked to improve.

Parts of the property market faced severe disruption last year from the Covid-19 crisis, with construction delays and some firms pausing investment decisions.

The number of planning applications submitted for residential and commercial buildings of 20 storeys or above in the capital in 2020 fell 27.1% compared with the previous year, from 107 to 78.

The latest New London Architecture (NLA) London tall buildings survey, published in conjunction with Knight Frank, added that submitted applications remain around 36% lower than the market peak in 2018.

However, the report, which covers developments at 20 storeys or above, pointed out that 73% (57) of applications in 2020 were submitted in the second half of the year.

Construction on just 24 tall buildings commenced last year, down 44%.

Stuart Baillie, head of planning at Knight Frank said: “Evidence indicates that although Covid 19 impacted construction activity and investor confidence in 2020, there was a significant bounce back later in the year.”

He added: “Almost three quarters of all new planning applications were submitted in the second half of 2020, suggesting a returning confidence to delivering such schemes in the medium and long term.”

The total pipeline (buildings in pre-planning, planning and construction) currently stands at 587 tall buildings, up 7.4% from in 2019. Of these 368 are in inner London.

A look at where some of the planned new tall buildings in London are concentratedNLA and Knight Frank
A look at where some of the planned new tall buildings in London are concentratedNLA and Knight Frank

Most of the pipeline is residential, but in a vote of confidence that new offices will still be in demand post-Covid, a number of new workspaces are planned.

Projects that have recently got the green light include a 33 storey development at 70 Gracechurch Street, where 775, 000 square feet of flexible office space as well as shops is planned.

Patrick Wong, the chief executive of Tenacity which is behind the scheme, said in February: “We believe that high quality office space with the latest sustainability standards and technological innovations will remain in demand post pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the NLA and Knight Frank data suggests that 2021 could be a bumper one for completions, with 52 tall buildings expected to complete – a 49.6% jump on 2020. However, it said much will depend on the medium-term performance of the property market and the economy.

The study said the pipeline of new buildings remains healthy, but added: “It is reasonable to assume that —given the time it takes to work through the planning system, and the long-term investment each building requires —the full impact of Covid-19 on the tall buildings landscape in London has yet to be fully realised.”

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