London’s transforming skyline

By | Business
The price of property coming onto the London housing market is up by an average of £11,217 in March - image credit via www.flickr.com/photos/shirokazan/

There are 236 London tower buildings of at least 20 stories in the planning or construction stages, according to an audit carried out for think tank New London Architecture, which studies the capital’s architectural landscape and urban planning. Around 80% of these buildings are residential, and one in five are under construction. The NLA estimates that there are 220 existing towers in London, which means this new crop could double the number of towers in the city.

Over the next few years, the London skyline is set to be joined by the 715-foot Newfoundland tower, which was granted building permits earlier this month. Work on the 58-story building, which will have 566 apartments, will start this summer, with completion expected in 2018.

Many of the new crop of towers are aimed at luxury living. The near £200million Baltimore Tower, in development in Canary Wharf, was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm behind One World Trade Center and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The 492-foot building, it expected to be completed in 2016, has a circular twisting design and will include a restaurant, movie theater and private club lounge, plus a gym and swimming pool.

Creating skyscrapers in a city packed with historic sites does have some issues. There are skyscraper exclusion zones around particularly important buildings such as Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral where building permits for towers will be dismissed.

Whether the design fits in with the London skyline topped the list of Londoners’ priorities when constructing new towers. 53 per cent chose this as their highest or second highest priority. Design and affordability were also priorities, with 35 per cent choosing whether it has good design and 32 per cent feeling that affordable housing was a necessity in new towers.

The research director at MORI, Ben Marshall, said, “With London facing a ‘housing issue’ and keen to grow economically, the onus tends to be on the quantity of new building. Tall towers offer promise, however our new poll for New London Architecture underlines the importance the London public place on quality and design. Opinion is mixed; Londoners might like looking at tall towers, nevertheless they are unsure about living in them.”

Peter Murray, chairman of NLA and curator of London’s Growing Up! said,  “I am pleased to see that more people these days are in favour of tall buildings than against, well designed towers in the right place can enhance the skyline. The quantity of buildings coming through the system is such that we need to make sure the right controls are in place, that is why we are calling for the Mayor to set up a London Skyline Commission to ensure that only best quality buildings get through the net.”

There have been suggestions of possibly having a ‘new London’, as London is the centre of nearly everything including politics and economics. By moving some centres to other cities it could benefit more people in the British economy.

At present London is as big as the next six biggest UK cities combined, creating an upward spiral of increasing productivity increases that draws in yet more growth. Even to a modest extent, the businesses that really need to be in London, such as banks and finance, could benefit from this increase being slowed.

London has come to dominate the UK to an unusual respect, as it is the political capital, creative capital and business capital. It is the UK’s rolled together equivalent of Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles.

The price of property coming onto the London housing market is up by an average of £11,217 in March, which is a new record. London overall is still up by 2.1% per month, nevertheless the most expensive boroughs recorded an average fall of 1.3% this month, suggesting the price rises are continuing to ripple out. The average price of property coming to the market in London is now £552,530.

What ways could property prices in London be lowered, for example the creation of a ‘new London’? 

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