Councils across London are mounting a rearguard action against mayor Ken Livingstone’s drive to increase housing densities, as a report reveals the capital is on the verge of a residential tower building boom.

Submitting evidence last week to the inquiry into the London Plan, councils warned increased housing targets would result in too few family dwellings.

The Association of London Government, which represents the capital’s councils, said: “If housing targets in the London Plan are purely measured in terms of units there is a danger too many of one type of home (particularly one- and two-bedroom flats) could be built, leaving demand for other types (especially family homes) unmet.”

Four London councils, including Islington and Tower Hamlets, have yet to sign up to the Greater London Authority’s increased targets because of concerns about town cramming.

Haringey council’s executive has asked officers to find ways of resisting developments bigger than 700 habitable rooms per ha. A spokesperson for the North London Strategic Alliance said that although authorities in the area, including Haringey, were happy to accept high-density development in places undergoing regeneration, they did not want to see a change in the low-rise character of established suburban areas.

The high life: Barratt’s Elektron Building in Poplar is in line with the London Plan
The high life: Barratt’s Elektron Building in Poplar is in line with the London Plan

Southwark council has successfully resisted pressure from the GLA to increase housing densities in suburban parts of the borough, such as Dulwich, after winning the backing of the planning inspector appointed to adjudicate on its unitary development plan.

Councils are keen to resist the housing targets because, once set by the GLA, they become binding on authorities.

Meanwhile, independent researcher London Development Research has published a report saying that work is expected to start on six tall residential towers between now and the end of the year, with work due to begin on another 10 in 2007.

Tall Residential Development says: “As many tall buildings will start in the 18 months from June 2006 as started in the 10 years up to June 2006.”

The report says the upturn in tall building construction follows a similar surge in planning permissions for tower schemes following Livingstone’s election in 2000, and reflects the growing confidence of developers such as Ballymore and Berkeley in undertaking high-rise developments.

It says Galliard’s Seager Distillery scheme at Deptford Bridge and Barratt’s Elektron Building in Poplar are both due to start before the end of the year.