Plans to build Europe’s largest datacentre on Green Belt land in East Havering will come before senior councillors next week.

The proposal, a joint venture between Havering Council and developer Digital Reef, would constitute a total of £5.3 billion of inward investment - investment made in the UK by companies from overseas.

The council says this amount represents about 75 per cent of the value of the London 2012 Olympics.

In documents filed ahead of next week’s council cabinet meeting on November 9, it is estimated the proposed datacentre would increase London’s data capacity by 50 per cent, “ensuring the UK businesses have access to appropriate digital infrastructure to grow”. 

Locally, it is expected to deliver a significant stimulus for Havering. For example, 2,800 local jobs are predicted during the five-year construction period, with 7,100 roles required beyond that, 2,370 of which are expected to again be filled by residents. 

The project is also estimated to result in £13.6 million in business rates to the council until 2025.

Digital Reef predicts a total of £2 billion going into Havering’s coffers during the construction period. 

Romford Recorder: Cllr Ray Morgon, leader of Havering Council, said the datacentre represents an intrepid opportunity for the boroughCllr Ray Morgon, leader of Havering Council, said the datacentre represents an intrepid opportunity for the borough (Image: Havering Council)

In addition to the datacentre, up to 120 hectares of the 202-hectare site is intended to become an ecology park, opening up the currently private land to the public. 

This is part of the proposal’s wider aim to be carbon-neutral, which will be further contributed to via initiatives including tree planting, the restoration of wetlands and developing a zero carbon facility that will support research into zero carbon energy, digital infrastructure and the monitoring of land. 

The documents do not state who currently owns the Green Belt plot earmarked for the project. 

Due to its location near the Thames Freeport, there is also interest in converting the area into a tax site as part of the Government’s recently-announced investment zones. 

This would make it liable for a number of time-limited tax incentives.

Havering Council leader Cllr Ray Morgon said: “Havering can be incredibly proud to have attracted this investment interest through to this crucial stage and this report to cabinet seeks to confirm the support of members for the investment, in principle. 

“This project represents one of the largest mobile investments globally, representing 25 per cent of all UK inward investment in 2021 alone. 

“This intrepid opportunity will both boost our council finances from new business rate payers and provide a shot in the arm for wider local economy, through new jobs for Havering residents, developing training and skills, as well as opening up to 300 acres as a new ecology park for the public to enjoy. 

“I am truly excited for the opportunities that this inward investment can bring to the borough and our residents.” 

A decision on whether to move ahead with the proposal will not be decided at next week’s cabinet meeting. However, officers have recommended councillors endorse the project.

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