London: 600MW data center campus on East London's green belt in Havering met with opposition

Nov 21, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Leading environmental group CPRE has argued that Digital Reef's plans to build Europe's "largest data center" will cause "massive environmental damage" and has vowed to fight its development. As previously covered by Baxtel, the £5.3 billion ($5.97bn) project is to be built on land in North Ockenden and Upminster, which is designated as "green belt."

Alice Roberts, CPRE's head of campaigns, expressed the group's dismay at the proposals: "We are astonished and appalled the council has agreed to sink valuable time into developing a proposal which will cause massive environmental damage and is highly unlikely to gain permission." Meanwhile, the leader of Havering council's Conservative group, Cllr Damian White, while calling the project a "significant opportunity," raised similar concerns about using green belt land. He has subsequently called for a public inquiry. 

In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, White said: "Whilst delivering significant inward investment for the borough, how will residents right across Havering benefit from the loss of hundreds of acres of green belt land?" 

Adding: "This should form part of a wider debate on the upcoming update of the local plan. Rushing ahead without reallocating the land through an open public inquiry would be the wrong route for this type of development to be achieved."

However, leader of the Council Ray Morgon (Residents Association) argued the proposal would "bring back land into public use which is not currently accessible." Morgan also insisted that the council is committed to the green belt and argued that the project would involve "using the benefits of the land without any loss." If the project goes ahead, the council is set to gain £12m a year in business rates.

With regard to grid capacity, according to Energy Markets Association, the Havering project will not have an impact in the Upminster area. Speaking to The Telegraph, a spokesman said that UK Power Networks have confirmed that there will be sufficient supply capacity for the project and are working to ensure a "smooth connection" to their network in collaboration with transmission network owner National Grid.