Bottom Line: Developers vie to see how high they can go

Elizabeth Fournier
UNTIL World War II, St Paul’s – which stands just 111m high ­– was the tallest building in London.

Despite height restrictions in the capital being lifted in 1956 it wasn’t until the late seventies that London got its first true skyscraper, when Tower 42 sprung up – looming a full 183m above Old Broad Street.

Since then, the change to the London skyline has been huge. From the development of Canary Wharf in the early 1990s to the audacious 306m Shard, completed last year – currently the tallest building in the EU – developers’ lust for tall buildings seems to know no bounds, as they hunt for the next available site on which to build.

In the City of London’s 2010 economic assessment, it predicted that “up to 15 new towers could be completed in the next five years”.

And after a period where so-called groundscrapers seemed to be in fashion (like the Walbrook), their prediction now looks like it could be coming true – with yesterday’s Chinese deal providing another boost to development. As our graphic on p3 shows, skyscrapers are springing up across the capital, and a new focus on mixed and residential schemes proves it’s not just office workers who’ll be living the high life. No sooner had St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall (181m) been completed than developer Tom Ryan announces plans to build a 75-storey (242m) apartment tower at Canary Wharf ­– dwarfing One Canada Square, which was Britain’s tallest building for 20 years.

Now Chinese firm Greenland – if Boris Johnson’s slip of the tongue is to be believed – want to go one better, heading both east and west with plans for developments in both Wandsworth and the Docklands.

So it looks like London’s skyline is heading onwards and upwards for the forseeable future. And when it comes with an £1.2bn boost to the capital, that’s no bad thing at all.

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