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Havering data centre: Plans for east London scheme trigger fury

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By Sebastian MannLocal Democracy Reporting Service

Digital Reef The whole scheme would cover almost 400 acresDigital Reef

The whole scheme would cover almost 400 acres

Plans to build a huge data centre have sparked opposition among residents.

Developer Digital Reef has put forward the scheme for East Havering Data Centre, which would straddle the boundary of Havering, in east London, and Thurrock, in Essex.

The centre would cover 99 acres (40 hectares) and the scheme would also include a 279-acre (113 hectare) “ecology park”, which the firm said would be publicly accessible.

Havering Council said the centre would be Europe’s largest and that it expected the scheme to bring in funds that could help cover vital services.

Digital Reef said it expected the centre to create 1,240 permanent jobs.

Havering Friends of the Earth co-ordinator, Ian Pirie, said many residents opposed the plans.

He said: “The data centre will take between 10 and 12 years to build, and the impact of lorries during construction will be intolerable in these quiet country lanes.

“The impact on the site, if it is built, would also be unacceptable.

“Instead of farmland, there will be a large number of warehouse-sized buildings, containing banks of computers, batteries, cooling systems, backup power sources, and more equipment.”

He added if the development was allowed, it would set a precedent.

“We would then lose more and more of our green belt,” he said.

He questioned when “creeping industrialisation” of the countryside would stop.

The group has challenged the council about the site’s environmental credentials, raising concerns it will need “tremendous” amounts of electricity and water.

If it gets the green light, the scheme will be powered by a substation in Warley, Essex, which some have argued would constitute a reliance on fossil fuels.

DANNY LEACH The plans for the site have sparked opposition among residents DANNY LEACH

The plans for the site have sparked opposition among residents

Danny Leach, whose farm backs on to the proposed site, said locals feel “shut out”.

A resident of 19 years, he said his 178-year-old home would feel “every vibration” of construction work and the work would have a “massive impact” on the openness of the area.

He said: “I’m going to get views of 60 and 80ft buildings – eight of them the size of Tesco superstores. It could force us to move.”

The council has said it will look at mitigating noise during construction and operation.

A spokesman said constituents would be listened to and that there would be a public consultation.

They said: “Councillors are aware of the strength of feeling of some residents in North Ockendon but they also have to consider the broader interests of the Havering community as a whole.”

The council said it believed the project would boost employment and bring in funds that could help cover vital services.

The spokesman said: “The council is confident that if the data centre is approved, it will be a catalyst for new hi-tech industries locating in the borough providing further job opportunities, particularly for our young people.”

Havering Council said the project would meet net-zero targets and not produce any emissions.

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