New York firm proposes tower dangling from an asteroid, but London has problems at ground level

As part of a news week dominated by the formal beginning of Brexit, this particularly eye catching proposal from US based Clouds Architecture Office was a welcome bit of relief.

They are quite literally turning conventional architecture on its head by suggesting the world’s tallest tower should have its foundations on an asteroid orbiting 50,000km above the earth. Whilst this proposal might, on first glance, appear to have been discovered on the desk of a particularly innovative Bond-villain, the New-York based design firm point out in their proposal that NASA already have projects in the pipeline to test and determine the feasibility of capturing and relocating asteroids.  Could it be that within our lifetimes, buildings might be hovering above our heads as in the below artwork? I can certainly think of a few benefits, besides the extra 40 minutes of daylight living at 32,000m in the air might offer, but it seems to me that this idea might be confined to concept for some time.


Back in the present day, and a little closer to the ground, home-building in central London is in something of a crisis due to a cooling market and falling prices. The FT reported this week that new home construction was down by a staggering 75% year on year in the final quarter of 2016, and the uncertainty surrounding this week’s Brexit confirmation does not provide much hope for the start of 2017’s figures. 

Observers have surmised that, falling property values coupled with rising construction costs, have created a nightmare scenario for many house-builders, with last year’s Stamp Duty reforms landing another blow for good measure. Whilst this might seem like an issue confined to central London’s property elite, the same figures, from property agency JLL, showed that the trend is extending across the capital, with Greater London seeing a 26% decline in new housing starts – a not inconsequential drop. 

As part of our search process here at X-Press, we uncover a great many Section 106 Agreements, which require that developers include lower-cost affordable housing in their schemes in order to secure planning permission. Neil Chegwidden, Director of Residential Research at JLL, suggested that this decline in new construction would lead to a larger drop in the number of affordable homes built under such agreements, precipitating further housing problems right across the capital.

With the Central and Greater London property markets occupying such a pivotal role in our national economy, it will be interesting to see what commitments and legislative changes the Government will be willing to make in an attempt to re-energise home-building and the affordable sector in particular.  What is certain is that we have enough housing problems to solve here on earth before looking skywards.

Tom Mannion


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