London's sky-high new homes: record number of penthouses and rooftop garden flats

It's not just what's outside that makes the new wave of London penthouse towers so appealing, discovers David Spittles
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* London is brimming with both glamorous new penthouses and inner-city affordable rooftop homes in St John's Wood, Knightsbridge, Elephant & Castle, Southwark and Brentford

* Many new blocks come with winter gardens or tiered terraces, both private and communal. More than 60 per cent of new apartments have outside space, three times the level of a decade ago

* Woolwich Central, The Heron, Queen's Court and Kew Bridge West are just some of the developments featuring penthouse apartments with outdoor space

Woolwich Central
From £277,500: 259 apartments have been built from the eighth floor up at Woolwich Central. The "sky-rise" apartments are linked by open courtyards and landscaped walkways (020 8855 7290)

A wave of new residential towers is creating record numbers of high-rise and “mid-height” homes across the capital. Not only is London brimming with glamorous new penthouses — a reflection of the international cash pouring into posh postcodes — but inner-city regeneration means jazzy new skyscrapers are popping up as fresh architectural thinking brings affordable rooftop homes with gardens within budget. Many new blocks come with winter gardens or tiered terraces, both private and communal.

“Previously, if you wanted decent outside space you bought a house with a garden, but today you can live in a flat and enjoy stepping outside to your own private space,” says Andrew Palmer, head of residential at property consultant DTZ.

More than 60 per cent of new apartments have outside space, three times the level of a decade ago. Developers and architects “design-in” balconies and terraces and incorporate communal outside space — like a traditional, private garden square where access is restricted to resident key holders. Often apartments are being built around water gardens, landscaped courtyards and continental-style piazzas where residents can relax and socialise.

Enjoy your own winter garden with a view

At Woolwich Central, 259 apartments have been built from the eighth floor up, above council offices and a Tesco superstore. A series of “sky-rise” apartment buildings are linked by open courtyards, landscaped walkways, gardens and children’s play areas. Docklands-facing flats have glass-walled winter gardens and views of the Thames. Prices from £277,500. Call Savills on 020 8855 7290.

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The Heron, a sleek 36-storey black-tinted glass skyscraper next to Barbican in the Square Mile. The tower has 285 apartments and is linked to a brand-new concert hall and rehearsal space for Guildhall School of Music and Drama, on top of which is a secluded seventh-floor roof garden and residents club with bar and rooms for business meetings.

The scheme’s Panoramic collection of 13 apartments is spread over four floors at the top of the building. These lateral flats range up to 2,300sq ft and have what developer Laurence Ronson describes as “killer wraparound terraces” — more than 1,000sq ft with double-aspect views of the City. Prices from £3.6 million. Call 0845 533 800.

A much cheaper Rooftop Collection of apartments has been launched at Vivo, in the Stepney Green conservation area, midway between the City and Canary Wharf. Prices from £410,000, for one-bedroom flats with terraces of up to 200sq ft.

First Base and East Thames Group, the developers, are sponsoring the East London Design Collection to support the area’s young designers, who have helped create the Fifties-themed show flat. Call 020 3069 2073.

Height of fashion

Estate agents say even a small balcony or terrace can add £50,000 to the price of an apartment. Genuinely big terraces are quite rare and normally only come with penthouses. “In a crowded city, private outdoor space is a luxury that will always add value,” says James Hyman of estate agent Cluttons. “The exact premium can be anything between 15 and 35 per cent, depending on size, aspect, view and design quality.”

As a rule of thumb, the closer to Harrods, the more expensive a penthouse will be because Knightsbridge is where the global super-rich want to live. Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov reportedly paid £136.6 million for the penthouse at the Candy Brothers’ One Hyde Park development.

Yet, unless they come with views across a royal park, prime central London penthouses — in Mayfair, for example — tend to have second-rate vistas across a messy roofscape of TV aerials and ventilation shafts. By contrast, Trafalgar One’s penthouse has two terraces overlooking Trafalgar Square and a rare view of Nelson’s Column. Priced at £16.95 million. Call 020 7235 4555. Queen’s Court in St John’s Wood has a pair of light-filled duplex penthouses built on top of a refurbished apartment block. Prices from £9.75 million. Call 020 7724 4724.

Queen's Court
From £9.75 million: two light-filled luxury duplex penthouses are for sale at Queen's Court, St John's Wood (020 7724 4724)

Arguably the most spectacular penthouses are in new glass-clad riverbank towers, which offer sweeping 180- to 360-degree views along the winding Thames, big colour-changing skies and shimmering reflections off the water. Many posh people spurn these new-era locations and stick to the safe prestige of a traditional address. But for a younger breed of entrepreneurs and celebrities, fashion, theatre and media executives, places such as Bankside, Bermondsey and Vauxhall top the list.

South-of-the-river skyscraper penthouses have particularly splendid views, plus the northern light favoured by artists. Elephant & Castle only has 43-storey Strata at the moment but a cluster of towers is earmarked as part of the continuing regeneration. Under way is One the Elephant, a 37-storey tower with 284 apartments, due for completion in 2016. Call Lend Lease on 020 3667 1522.

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NEO Bankside’s five angular blocks get higher as they step back from the river. Prices from £3.5 million. Call 020 7861 5499. East London is also a magnet, with sparkling penthouses coming to Shoreditch and close to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, while Canary Wharf penthouses continue to pull in bankers.

Avant-garde sits between Brick Lane and the Bishopsgate office complex on the City fringe. The 1,924sq ft penthouse 25 storeys up costs £2.95 million. Call Telford Homes on 020 3620 8003. The tower also has a “Free Spirit Garden” and communal roof terrace for residents.

Kew Bridge on the Brentford side of the Thames gazes across the river to the leafy, inviolate acres of the Royal Botanic Gardens — a prized view for many. Set within landscaped gardens with reflecting ponds, the development is next to the Grade II-listed Kew Bridge, from which it takes its name. The most expensive penthouse is priced at £2.95  million and has a 1,762sq ft terrace offering sweeping views of the Thames. The development has a 24-hour concierge, a residents’ health and fitness suite and secure underground parking. Call 020 8995 6669.

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Of the 5,500 homes under construction in London, only two per cent are marketed as penthouses and they have a combined value of £1 billion, according to property consultant CBRE. Half of penthouse buyers are UK millionaires. The other half are mainly Russian and Middle Eastern billionaires.

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