High-rise residential development

The UK’s biggest cities have recently experienced a surge in high-rise residential development. London and Manchester have seen the most development activity, with proposals, planning applications and construction starts increasing over the last five years. This ‘vertical urbanisation’ (Nethercote, 2018) is a dynamic phenomenon driven, in part, by flows of global capital.

The UK’s experience follows well-established trends in property hotspots around the world like Hong Kong, New York, Sydney and Vancouver. In this report, we argue that the impacts of high rise residential development in UK cities is yet to be fully interrogated and understood. We thus present an international evidence review on high-rise residential development – our contention being there is much to learn from research conducted in other cities around the world. The review has a particular focus on how high-rise residential buildings are planned, designed, what economic and institutional factors are driving their development, what long-term social, economic and environmental impacts result from high-rise residential buildings, and how they are managed and maintained over the long-term. We argue that there are crucial lessons to be drawn from international cities that have experienced ‘vertical urbanisation’. On the one hand, the urban densities achieved can increase housing supply while creating more walkable and mixed use neighbourhoods. On the other hand, poorly planned and badly designed high-rise residential development can also cause gentrification and place pressure on already stretched local services.

The safety, security and maintenance of high-rise buildings, as tragically demonstrated by the Grenfell disaster, also leads us to ask urgent questions about the resiliency of high-rise housing and it management. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic leads to important questions about how cities should plan and design for density and high-rise living when social contact is restricted.



This report has been shortlisted for the RTPI Sir Peter Hall Award for Research Excellence 2021.








Date: April 28, 2021 8:30 am

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