Plans for East Havering Data Centre shared at strategic planning committee

Published: Thursday, 27 April 2023

Councillors and committee members heard about the progress being made with the plans for the data centre and ecology park in East Havering at the Strategic Planning Committee meeting last Thursday.

The presentation, on Thursday 20 April 2023, provided an overview of the project and was an opportunity for committee members to ask any questions they had about the scheme.

Since the proposals are still in the pre-planning stage, it meant that no decisions were required to be made at the meeting.

The scheme proposes to deliver a low carbon data facility, a centre for research and development in low carbon industry, food production and green energy solutions.

Digital Reef, who have put forward plans for the data centre, have chosen this location as it uniquely offers access to both power the opportunity and to become the backbone for data connections across the continent.  

The benefits for the borough.

  1. Building Europe’s largest datacentre on a site of 499 acres but only developing 110 acres (33 percent for the data centre use) with the remainder set aside for the ecology park.
  2. Supporting innovation in zero carbon energy, digital infrastructure and the monitoring of agricultural and other land use activity to improve the sustainability of the planet. The test bed supported by Space Park Leicester and University of Leicester will conduct research into carbon sequestration and vertical farming using green energy produced on site to demonstrate the improved carbon yield from 10 acres of indoor farming using zero carbon energy and an ecology park of circa 280 acres, versus the current use of conventional farming across 499 acres. It is envisaged that the test bed findings will demonstrate significant sustainability benefits for the planet and the potential to deliver food security to the United Kingdom, which can be scaled, and therefore has much broader national significance.
  3. Making Havering a world-leading centre for the development of clean energy technology.
  4. Generating and estimated 10,000 jobs nationally for the construction phase, an estimated 2,370 of those will be permanent high value jobs for local people, with approximately 30-50 on site at any one time.
  5. A substantial skills legacy and wider economic benefits for years to come, amounting to a £694 million contribution to Havering’s GDP during construction and an ongoing annual contribution of £456million during operation.
  6. Creating an ecology park and community forest across up to 300 acres of the site, contributing to the datacentre’s carbon neutral profile, and providing an open space for all to enjoy
  7. Helping to hold back floodwater to avoid the risk of flooding elsewhere.

There are currently three potential planning options.

  1. Planning Application route – where the developer submits a planning application, it is appraised and a decision issued.
  2. Local Development Order – where the Local Planning Authority gives permission upfront for a specific development and subject to strict conditions, meaning that the promoter will not need to submit a planning application.
  3. Inclusion in the revision of the Local Plan – this could lead to the site being formally allocated in the Plan for the proposal and would require a planning application to be submitted thereafter.

The next milestone for the project is for the Local Planning Authority to determine which planning option will be progressed. 

Eleanor Alexander, Design and Technology Director from Digital Reef, said:

“Digital Reef are very excited to be progressing a data centre and green energy campus, ecology park and research and development cluster in Havering that will be of both local, national and global significance.

“We are particularly excited that the project is not only delivering critical infrastructure that supports  the UK governments ambition to be a science and technology superpower by 2030 but are also facilitating £5 Billion plus of inward investment into Havering and creating a significant number of high value jobs in digital and green infrastructure for the next generation.’

Councillor Graham Williamson, Cabinet member for Regeneration, said:

“I am pleased that the presentation to Strategic Planning Committee went so well. Councillors recognise the wide-ranging positive benefits the data centre and ecology park could mean for the borough and our residents.

“I look forward to returning to the Strategic Planning Committee at the next opportunity, as we make progress through the planning process.”

Read more about the data centre