covent garden 1968 recon P.jpg



Construction, demolition and adaptation are core dynamic processes operating concurrently and continuously in cities at a range of rates and scales; from rapid comprehensive development and demolition across multiple blocks, to minor removals and additions to small-scale plots over time.

Each process generates a constantly changing amount of form and space available for different activities. The ability of urban stocks to, efficiently, accommodate change depends on a number of factors, including the adaptability of its structural systems, the capacity of buildings to extend incrementally within their plots; system repairability, conditions of ownership and planning policy frameworks.

The rate of turnover, or churn in the stock, and the number, type and location of buildings - built, adapted and demolished - has significant implications for cities both in their capacity to create conditions to flourish in socio-cultural and economic terms, and their ability to reduce energy and material flows to meet global greenhouse gas targets. Reducing demolition rates and increasing reuse for example  keeps building materials, and their associated carbon reserves, held within stocks which turn this reduces emissions, waste related extraction, and processing associated with replacement. Throwing away finite, complex and expensive resources,  that have evolved, adapted and been tested over many decades, or in some case centuried , without proper assessment, is also of increasing concern.

In London the constant churn of buildings, especially in high value areas, is still not tracked spatially.  Demolition permits are used to notify residents of dust and dirt but remain unpublished. Only non-spatial data on the number of dwellings demolished are collected. Demolition data for non-domestic buildings are not captured. Under a fifth of buildings in London are protected by any type of demolition control. No requirement currently exists for either embodied carbon, or embedded ‘value’ within a building to be assessed as part of the planning process.

Colouring London's 'Dynamics' category has been set up firstly, to collect spatial statistics on new build and demolition for London to allow the location of demolition to be tracked and the type of replacement to be tracked  for the first time. Secondly, to enable the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts of loss of specific building cohorts over time to be more accurately measured. Thirdly, to allow communities to maps/ highlight - in real time - local buildings considered to be of potential long-term socio-economic local value that are also under threat. Fourthly, to support local authorities in conserving urban resources of value, and in meeting energy and waste targets. Fifthly, to capture data on historical constructions and demolitions on sites, and the evolution of stocks over time,  for use within predictive computational models designed to inform long-term sustainable planning and design strategies.  Sixthly, to stimulate interest in the collection of historical data, to enable a3D evolution animations and simulations to be produced to enable us to better connect the past, present and future of our cities.


'Proposed' demolition 

The 'proposed demolition' category allows local councils to notify residents, at an early stage, as to whether buildings in their area are proposed for demolition. This helps provide time for communities to feed back local knowledgeand increases transparency within the planning system.  It also gives London residents a new planning facility, that enables communities to add and update information on proposed demolitions themselves.


'Pending demolition' and 'Demolished' 

'Pending demolition' can be ticked where permission is known to have been granted for demolition. When this happens, information in the 'proposed' demolition' box above will clear. Here a planning portal reference number is required. Ticking the 'Demolished' box means the building has been demolished. This will automatically move all information on this building to the 'Historical construction and demolition' section. (OSMasterMap footprints will be updated every 6 months). 

'Historical construction and demolition'

In the 'Historical construction and demolition' section, pairs of dates - estimated construction date and demolition date - are collected. We are seeking information for all previous constructions and demolitions ever built, on, or touching the current building plot. This information is probably our most difficult data to collect and requires investigation of planning applications on the Planning Portal and of historical texts and maps identified on our 'Age' page.

This is also where data for any building in London (collected within Colouring London), but demolished from 2019 onwards, will be archived. 

Colouring London is an open data platform and we can only accept data from unrestricted sources. Just use first-hand knowledge of the building wherever possible, or, check your source is open and free for third party use.