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Plans for Europe’s largest data centre set to avoid first public test

Plans for Europe’s largest data centre set to avoid first public test

Plans for a 600 MW data centre in the London Borough of Havering could be set to avoid the first stage of public scrutiny, as the local council has hinted at its desire to fast track the site. 

Digital Reef proposed the construction of ‘Europe’s largest data centre’ in November last year, with plans detailing a 175-hectare site offering 330,000 sqm (3.55 million sq ft) of new data centre floorspace just 15 miles from London’s busy Docklands data centre hub. 

The plans are currently being considered by Havering Council, which has recently opted to ‘explore’ using a Local Development Order to grant development rights for the site in one go – forgoing the need for future planning applications. This would speed up the development of the site, although it would still bound the developer to certain conditions as set out in the Local Development Order. 

However, despite initially promising that it would launch an informal consultation into the plans, Havering Council has decided to abandon that stage and will instead concentrate its efforts on producing detailed analysis and documentation to show the public in a formal consultation at a later date. 

Digital Reef is said to have offered the council a £9 million premium if the data centre was to be granted planning permission, but according to local news sources, opposition to the site appears to be strong – with many citing the potential environmental impact of the site.  

Despite this, Digital Reef appears confident in its plans, promising a ‘zero carbon facility’ that will utilise the existing capacity available at the local substation, and provide 113 hectares of new green space and nature reserve to local residents. 

Additionally, the site is set to reduce its impact on the local grid by providing on-site renewable power generation and an energy storage facility that will offer balancing services. It’s also planned that the campus will provide heat recovery systems for low-carbon agritech farming.

If the project is given the go-ahead, Digital Reef says that the site will increase London’s data storage capacity by ‘more than 50%’, which will be key for the UK Government to achieve its new focus on sovereign data.

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