If ever there was a hotbed for plant hire in London, it is Canary Wharf. Ever since the 1980s the old Docklands area has been at the centre of extensive developments and these show no sign of stopping.

This has been proven yet again this week by the granting of planning permission for three new residential skyscrapers from Tower Hamlets Council, adding to the already Manhattanised cityscape. It will be built on the vacant plot at the eastern end of Canary Wharf, adjacent to Blackwall Basin Dock.

Devised by developer Urbanest and designed by architect Apt, the project will see three towers of 28, 36 and 48 storeys respectively being constructed at the site on Trafalgar Way. This will provide 672 beds for students at University College London, plus 80 flats for university key workers. It will be the tallest student accommodation development in northern Europe.

The buildings will also provide 41,000 sq ft of office space and a McDonalds Restaurant.

No contractor is in place yet, but work is still expected to begin during the first quarter of 2022, ensuring the area’s construction sector keeps on booming.

Among the notable features of the buildings will be a sky bridge connecting the two tallest towers around the tenth floor. It will also feature a number of exceptional sustainability elements, aiming for BREEAM Outstanding and Passivhaus certification. If this is successfully achieved, it will become the largest Passivhaus development in the whole of Europe.

The sustainability elements will also include local transport, with around 1,500 cycle spaces provided on the site. The plan includes enhanced integration of the public realm around the buildings with the local cycle network to provide better links with the local communities.

Urbanest director Anthony Mellalie was quoted by the East London Advertiser as saying: “This is an excellent location for students.”

He added: “It’s the largest sustainable student accommodation building globally and a massive undertaking to create the sort of place future generations want to live and work in.”

Of course, there is absolutely nothing new about tall buildings at Canary Wharf, which began with the original One Canada Square building in 1991, although it took on the “Canary Wharf” moniker on its own as the 770 ft tall edifice, at the time the tallest building in the UK, stood in spending isolation during the recession-hit early 1990s.

That changed in due course as the area gained a new status as a major financial centre, a location selected by HSBC for its world headquarters building, completed in 2002.  

All this was made possible by significant developments in transport to make the area more accessible for modern-day commuters from across the capital and beyond, compared with the dockers who lived and worked in the area in the past. 

As well as the Docklands Light Railway, which includes Canary Wharf station itself and adjacent stops at West India Quay, Heron Quays and South Quay, there is also the Canary Wharf station on the Jubilee line, part of an extension of this line into south and East London that was completed in 1999.

While the DLR links Canary Wharf to central London at Bank, the Jubilee Line provides connections to London Bridge, Waterloo and Stratford International stations, helping make access to Canary Wharf easier.

All this will be supplemented when Crossrail finally opens, with its own Canary Wharf Station, offering additional connections to Liverpool Street, Farringdon, Heathrow Airport and beyond London to Reading.

It is this transport connectivity that has enabled Canary Wharf to continue reaching skyward, as its original redevelopment as a centre of commercial activity in the 1990s and 2000s has been supplemented by a growing residential population. This latest development will continue that trend.

This is in line with the wider expectation that as London’s population soars past ten million in the years to come, it will be the east of the capital that takes up the bulk of the increase.

While some of that involves new suburban developments like the Barking Riverside project, Canary Wharf is clearly equipped to join other areas of high-density living in inner London as centres of continued growth.

There are still more Canary Wharf developments in the pipeline. North Quay, for example, is the Canary Wharf Group’s latest plan, with the scheme envisaging a 225 m (738 ft) tall tower at the site, as well as new green space and a bridge linking Canary Wharf with Poplar.

Past plans for this particular part of Canary Wharf have stalled in years past, but as more and more skyscrapers appear in the area, it will come as no surprise to see another major addition to the skyline in due course.