New skyscrapers set to change Tower Hamlets skyline

Manhattan Plaza is one of the latest skyscrapers to come to Tower Hamlets. Pic: Edward Spratt

The Tower Hamlets skyline is set for massive change with an annual survey revealing 28 skyscrapers currently under construction in the borough. 

Among these is Manhattan Plaza, a large residential project in Poplar, which reached its completion over the past year and will have 392 apartments over its 22 floors.  

Tower Hamlets is expecting the largest number of skyscrapers, buildings over 20 storeys, in London, but it is not clear how many of these will be residential instead of commercial.

Instead it is predicted that these tall buildings will offer over 20,000 new homes from all the projects that are proposed, being planned and under construction during 2017.

It’s not just Tower Hamlets – 14 high-rise buildings are under construction across the other three East London Line boroughs of Croydon, Hackney and Lewisham according to a recent survey. 

The fifth annual Tall Building survey details 510 tall buildings planned across the whole of London – and 49 per cent destined for East London. 

Based on the skyscrapers that were either proposed, granted planning permission or started construction between January 1 and December 31, 2017, the four East London Line boroughs can expect to receive 34,359 new homes. 

Tower Hamlets tops the chart with a massive 20,278 new homes expected with the developments in the borough.  

The level of affordability for these new housing options is uncertain but it does prove that a small number of tall buildings can provide a significant contribution towards the needs of the London housing market. 

Croydon are expecting to gain 6,696 new homes, although this is far from the huge figure for Tower Hamlets. 

Both Lewisham and Hackney sit with 3,974 and 3,411 respectively, which puts them slightly above the average for the whole of London but this may not be enough to satisfy the housing market. 

Although the new report states a 25 per cent drop in construction starts, they do indicate that areas such as Croydon, Isle of Dogs and the Lewisham borough are great areas for housing opportunity.  

These areas have been highlighted because of the planned new transport links such as Crossrail and the Bakerloo line extension, which could bring exciting opportunities to areas by improving transports links to central London. 

The survey by New London Architecture, an independent discussion forum on architecture in the capital, gives a detailed look at all buildings over 20 stories being proposed, planned and constructed across London. 

Overall applications for new high-rise buildings are down 10 per cent from last year and 35 per cent below the level found in 2015. 

Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture said: “We continue to see a steady increase in the number of tall buildings coming forward and with London’s population continuing to increase and the demand for new homes only getting higher, our view remains that well designed tall buildings, in the right place, are part of the solution.  

“Uncertainties and challenges to deliver these tall buildings remain, which is perhaps why we are seeing a slight slowdown in the number of applications, construction starts and completions.” 

Stuart Baillie of real estate consultancy GL Hearn who also produced the report, said: “Whilst there is a notable slowdown in the volume of new tall buildings entering the pipeline compared to the high of 2016, the rate is actually increasing in the boroughs of Southwark, Newham, Hammersmith & Fulham and Croydon.” 

Both Croydon and Lewisham have high percentages that show 50 per cent of tall buildings in Croydon and 80% in Lewisham gained planning permission in 2016. 

Tower Hamlets and Hackney have lower percentages showing that most of the buildings in planning from 2016 did not get approved over the last year. However, they both received more applications than Lewisham which based on the 80 per cent would have only had 5 buildings in planning the previous year. 

In terms of buildings moving from the planning stage to construction, both Hackney and Tower Hamlets had the highest totals of the four boroughs.  

Although at only 12.8 per cent, Tower Hamlets clearly has an issue with buildings moving from the planning stage to construction. This seems consistent with both Corydon and Lewisham who also have lower percentages of plans moving forward to the next phase.  

Seventy-one per cent of plans from the previous year started construction in Hackney, which is a definite increase over the other three boroughs.

Even with a low percentage of buildings going up over the past year, Tower Hamlets still has the highest number of high-rises under construction than any other East London Lines borough. 

Both Croydon and Lewisham have three tall buildings under construction, and Hackney has eight. All three are significantly lower than the total of Tower Hamlets, which suggests a large change in the borough’s skyline is coming over the next few years. 

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