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Where will London build its skyscrapers?

Image credit: Dreamstime, E&T

Data released by CTBUH shows where London’s recent building boom has had most impact. Skyscrapers became an essential feature in housing Londoners, especially those at the young and poor end.

When 30 St Mary Axe, or ‘the Gherkin’ was finally completed in 2003, soaring 180m into the sky, it was one of the tallest buildings in London. Today it is barely visible among the surrounding skyscrapers, and has slipped to 13th in the ‘tallest’ chart. Internationally, London ranks far behind other cities now: 50th place in terms of buildings over 150m according to data from the Global tall Building Database from the CtBUh (Council on tall Buildings and Urban habitat).

Share of dwellings built between 2000 and 2015 compared with total building stock (incl. pre 1900); Lower Super Output areas (LSOA) in Greater London

Image credit: E&T, Ben Heubl, ONS, VOA

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s nixing of plans for a 300m-high tulip tower last year only served to reinforce the diminutive nature of the capital, but that, the CtBUh data indicates, is to become a thing of the past. In the coming 12 years construction firms plan on building another 47 skyscrapers, with a minimum of 15 set to be higher than 100m.

residents in London skyscrapers

Image credit: E&T - Ben Heubl

E&T found some 64 per cent of the dataset’s 254 skyscrapers of more than 100m – either merely conceived, in planning, under construction or already completed – to be partly or fully categorised as buildings housing residents.

London's tallest building

Image credit: E&T - Ben Heubl

Since 2000, some areas in London received special attention from construction firms. Some building stock was almost entirely created from scratch, data by the Valuation Office agency suggests.

E&T identified 34 Lower Super Output areas (LSOa) in Greater London where four-fifths of total building stock was created between 2000 and 2015. Areas where most of the building stock was created in the new millennium include Barnet (030F) in the North, Wandsworth (002F), Newham (034F), Tower Hamlets 032D, Hammersmith and Fulham 023e and Greenwich (002e) - see map.

When architects plan and build new mammoth projects, it often leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those Londoners who find it hard to remain in the city or find housing in the first place. At the heart of a heated debate are young Londoners across the city complaining about sky-high rent and house prices – despite a decline in house prices in 2019.

Rent and houseprices

Image credit: E&T - Ben Heubl

But while the buildings may be a little on the squat side, it’s the house prices that are scraping the sky. London’s home ownership rates reinforce the notion that fewer people can afford to buy.

Home ownership has declined steadily since 1990. In 2018 ownership was 30 per cent lower than at its 1990 level for dwellers 35-44 years old, 41 per cent lower for those 25 to 34 years old and 71 per cent lower for 16 to 24-year-olds.

Homeowner comparison by age

Image credit: E&T

It pushed the young into renting, which is also much more expensive than elsewhere in the country. With the average rent charged in inner London 136 per cent higher than across England, it pushes many Londoners to the fringes of the city.     

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