The number of towers being planned or built in London has passed the 500 mark for the first time as the skyscraper trend spills into the suburbs.
Last year’s tower tally of 510 is a rise of more than 12 per cent on the 455 recorded in 2016, according to New London Architecture’s annual count of buildings of at least 20 storeys (their definition of a skyscraper).
The think tank’s survey, released today, also found that a record 115 towers are under construction in the capital, up 26 per cent from 91 in 2016.
The figures will renew concerns that the skyline is under threat from towers being waved through by councils and the Mayor. However, there are also signs that Brexit uncertainty, rising construction costs and falling demand for expensive central London flats could slow the rate at which skyscrapers go up, although perhaps only temporarily.
The survey, using figures from property data specialists EG and consultancy GL Hearn, found that only 18 towers were actually finished last year, down sharply on 2016.
The pace of completions is expected to rise again to record levels this year. Those completed last year include Vauxhall Sky Gardens, the two riverside Corniche towers in Lambeth, Manhattan Plaza in Poplar, Lombard Wharf in Battersea and the Lighterman in Greenwich Peninsula.
Although more than two thirds of the towers in the pipeline are in inner London, the survey shows tall buildings are becoming a feature of the suburbs.
Towers are being planned in Walham Forest and Bromley for the first time, leaving just seven boroughs — Bexley, Enfield, Havering, Hillingdon, Kensington & Chelsea, Merton and Richmond — as the last areas in London where no new skyscrapers are planned.
The report says this could change as development areas such as Bexley Riverside, Meridian Water (Enfield) and Morden (Merton) all have potential for tall buildings in the future.
The Elizabeth line, due to fully open from December next year, could also act as a catalyst for tall building development in outer boroughs such as Ealing, Redbridge and Newham.
Peter Murray, chairman and co-founder of NLA, said: “There has definitely been a shift from luxury to more middle-cost housing. Towers are not the only way of delivering the density of housing that London needs, but in certain areas such as Transport for London sites near stations there are virtually no alternatives.”
More than 90 per cent of the tall buildings are residential and could deliver 106,000 new homes, according to the survey. About half of all the towers are in east London with 85 in Tower Hamlets and 70 in Greenwich.
Mr Murray said there were few signs that the Grenfell Tower disaster was deterring developers from planning tall buildings. He said: “You would expect most of the buildings going up now not to face the same problems as Grenfell did, they will all have sprinkler systems, for example.”