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Policy D8 Tall buildings


Tall buildings have a role to play in helping London accommodate its expected growth as well as supporting legibility across the city to enable people to navigate to key destinations. To ensure tall buildings are sustainably developed in appropriate locations, and are of the required design quality, Development Plans and development proposals must undertake the following:


  1. Based on local context, Development Plans should define what is considered a tall building, the height of which may vary in different parts of London.

Tall building locations

  1. Tall buildings should be part of a plan-led approach to changing or developing an area. Boroughs should identify on maps in Development Plans the locations where tall buildings will be an appropriate form of development in principle, and should indicate the general building heights that would be appropriate, taking account of:
    1. the visual, functional, environmental and cumulative impacts of tall buildings (set out in part C below)
    2. their potential contribution to new homes, economic growth and regeneration
    3. the public transport connectivity of different locations.


  1. The impacts of a tall building can be visual, functional or environmental. All three elements should be considered within plan-making and in deciding development proposals:
    1. Visual impacts
      1. The views of buildings from different distances need to be considered, including:
        1. Long-range views – these require attention to be paid to the design of the top of the building. It should make a positive contribution to the existing and emerging skyline and not adversely affect local or strategic views
        2. Mid-range views from the surrounding neighbourhood – particular attention should be paid to the form and proportions of the building. It should make a positive contribution to the local townscape in terms of legibility, proportions and materiality
        3. Immediate views from the surrounding streets – attention should be paid to the base of the building. It should have a direct relationship with the street, maintaining the pedestrian scale, character and vitality of the street. Where the edges of the site are adjacent to buildings of significantly lower height or parks and other open spaces there should be an appropriate transition in scale between the tall building and its surrounding context to protect amenity or privacy.
      2. Whether part of a group or stand-alone, tall buildings should reinforce the spatial hierarchy of the local and wider context and aid legibility and wayfinding
      3. Architectural quality and materials should be of an exemplary standard to ensure the appearance and architectural integrity of the building is maintained through its lifespan
      4. Proposals should take account of, and avoid harm to, the significance of London’s heritage assets and their settings. Proposals resulting in harm will require clear and convincing justification, demonstrating that alternatives have been explored and there are clear public benefits that outweigh that harm. The buildings should positively contribute to the character of the area
      5. e)  Buildings in the setting of a World Heritage Site must preserve the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site, and the ability to appreciate it
      6. Buildings near the River Thames, particularly in the Thames Policy Area, should not contribute to a canyon effect along the river which encloses the open aspect of the river and the riverside public realm, or adversely affect strategic or local views along the river
      7. Buildings should not cause adverse reflected glare.
    2. Functional impact
      1. The internal and external design, including construction detailing, the building’s materials and its emergency exit routes must ensure the safety of all occupants
      2. Buildings should be serviced, maintained and managed in a manner that will preserve their safety and quality, and not cause disturbance or inconvenience to surrounding public realm. Servicing, maintenance and building management arrangements should be considered at the start of the design process
      3. Entrances, access routes, and ground floor uses should be designed and placed to allow for peak time use and to ensure there is no unacceptable overcrowding or isolation in the surrounding areas
      4. It must be demonstrated that the capacity of the area and its transport network is capable of accommodating the quantum of development in terms of access to facilities, services, walking and cycling networks, and public transport for people living or working in the building
      5. Infrastructure improvements required as a result of the development should be delivered and phased appropriately
      6. Jobs, services, facilities and economic activity that will be provided by the development and the regeneration potential this might provide should inform the design so it maximises the benefits these could bring to the area, and maximises the role of the development as a catalyst for further change in the area
      7. Buildings, including their construction, should not interfere with aviation, navigation or telecommunication, and should avoid a significant detrimental effect on solar energy generation on adjoining buildings.
    3. Environmental impact
      1. Wind, daylight, sunlight penetration and temperature conditions around the building(s) and neighbourhood must be carefully considered and not compromise comfort and the enjoyment of open spaces, including water spaces, around the building
      2. Air movement affected by the building(s) should support the effective dispersion of pollutants, but not adversely affect street-level conditions
      3. Noise created by air movements around the building(s), servicing machinery, or building uses, should not detract from the comfort and enjoyment of open spaces around the building.
    4. Cumulative impacts
      1. The cumulative visual, functional and environmental impacts of proposed, consented and planned tall buildings in an area must be considered when assessing tall building proposals and when developing plans for an area. Mitigation measures should be identified and designed into the building as integral features from the outset to avoid retro-fitting.

Public access

  1. Publicly-accessible areas should be incorporated into tall buildings where appropriate, particularly more prominent tall buildings.

Whilst high density does not need to imply high rise, tall buildings can form part of a strategic approach to meeting regeneration and economic development goals, particularly in order to make optimal use of the capacity of sites which are well-connected by public transport and have good access to services and amenities. Tall buildings can help people navigate through the city by providing reference points and emphasising the hierarchy of a place such as main centres of activity, and important street junctions and transport interchanges. Tall buildings that are of exemplary architectural quality can make a positive contribution to London’s cityscape, and many tall buildings have become a valued part of London’s identity. However, they can also have detrimental visual, functional and environmental impacts if in inappropriate locations and/or of poor quality design. The processes set out in Policy D2 Delivering good design will enable boroughs to identify areas where tall buildings can play a positive role in shaping the character of an area.

Tall buildings are generally those that are substantially taller than their surroundings and cause a significant change to the skyline. In large areas of extensive change, such as Opportunity Areas, definitions of tall buildings should relate to the evolving context. For the purpose of assessing applications referable to the Mayor, a tall building is a development that meets one or more of the following descriptions:

  • it falls within the Thames Policy Area and is more than 25m in height
  • it falls anywhere else within the City of London and is more than 150m in height
  • it is more than 30m in height elsewhere in London.

The Mayor will work with boroughs to provide a strategic overview of tall building locations across London and will seek to utilise 3D virtual reality digital modelling to help identify these areas, assess tall building proposals and aid public consultation and engagement. 3D virtual reality modelling can also help assess cumulative impacts of developments, particularly those permitted but not yet completed.

A tall building can be considered as being made up of three main parts: a top, middle and base. The top includes the upper floors, and roof-top mechanical or telecommunications equipment and amenity space. The top should be designed to make a positive contribution to the quality and character of the skyline, and mechanical and telecommunications equipment must be integrated in the total building design. Not all tall buildings need to be iconic landmarks and the design of the top of the building (i.e. the form, profile and materiality) should relate to the building’s role within the existing context of London’s skyline. Where publicly-accessible areas, including viewing areas on upper floors, are provided as a public benefit of the development, they should be freely accessible and in accordance with part G of Policy D7 Public realm. Well-designed safety measures should be integrated into the design of tall buildings and must ensure personal safety at height.

The middle of a tall building has an important effect on how much sky is visible from surrounding streets and buildings, as well as on wind flow, privacy and the amount of sunlight and shadowing there is in the public realm and by surrounding properties.

The base of the tall building is its lower storeys. The function of the base should be to frame the public realm and streetscape, articulate entrances, and help create an attractive and lively public realm which provides a safe, inclusive, interesting, and comfortable pedestrian experience. The base should integrate with the street frontage of adjacent buildings, and where appropriate enable the building to transition down in height.

Any external lighting for tall buildings should be energy efficient, and designed to minimise glare, light trespass, and sky glow, and ensure it does not negatively impact on the amenity of nearby residents.

The list of impacts of tall buildings in Policy D8 Tall buildings is not exhaustive and other impacts may need to be taken into consideration. For example, the impact of new tall buildings in proximity to waterbodies supporting notable bird species upon the birds’ flight lines may need to be considered.

Safety considerations must be central to the design and operation of tall buildings. Policy D10 Safety, security and resilience to emergency provides information on how to ensure the design of buildings follows best practice to minimise the threats from fire, flood, terrorism, and other hazards and Policy D11 Fire safety sets out specific requirements to address fire risk.