In a groundbreaking development in the world of digital infrastructure, the London Borough of Havering is set to become the site of what is being touted as Europe’s largest data center. The ambitious project, named the ‘London Data Freeport’, is a massive undertaking by the private sector developer, Digital Reef. Situated about 15 miles from the bustling Docklands data center area in east London, this project is poised to reshape the landscape of data storage and processing in the UK.
Spanning a vast area of 175 hectares, the London Data Freeport is envisioned to be a hub of technological advancement and eco-conscious design. With an impressive investment of £5.3 billion (approximately $5.97 billion), the project is not just significant in its scale but also in its commitment to sustainability. The proposed site at the junction of Fen Lane and Dunnings Lane, straddling North Ockendon and Upminster, is currently designated as green belt land. This location choice underscores the project’s dual focus on technological innovation and environmental sensitivity.
The project’s blueprint reveals an extensive campus comprising ten 50MW and five 20MW units, collectively capable of supporting a staggering 600MW of capacity. The development will add around 330,000 sqm (3.55 million sq ft) of new data center floorspace to the area. The construction phase, expected to span five years from 2023 to 2027, is a testament to the scale and complexity of this ambitious endeavor.
A notable feature of the London Data Freeport is its planned Zero Carbon facility. The developers have emphasized their commitment to on-site renewable power generation and battery grid balancing. This eco-friendly approach is further exemplified by plans for heat recovery systems to facilitate low-carbon agritech farming, blending technological advancement with agricultural innovation.
In a unique collaboration, the project involves a partnership with Space Park Leicester, the University of Leicester, and the Earth and Space Sustainability Initiative. This collaboration aims to foster innovation in zero-carbon energy, digital infrastructure, and the monitoring of agricultural and other land uses. Such partnerships are crucial in driving forward the agendas of sustainability and technological advancement in harmony.
The proposed site’s strategic location within the Thames Freeport boundary, just a mile from the M25 and two miles from Upminster Underground and mainline rail stations, enhances its accessibility and potential as a major digital hub. Additionally, the project promises to transform up to 120 hectares/300 acres into a public ecology park, further contributing to the area’s environmental and recreational offerings.
While Reef Group, known for developing retail, leisure, hotel, workplace, and residential projects, is spearheading this project, the move into the data center domain marks a significant diversification for the company. Their involvement in other projects, including a technology and data center park in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and ventures in manufacturing and healthcare/life sciences, underscores their expansive vision.
Councillor Ray Morgon, Leader of Havering Council, has expressed immense pride and optimism regarding this project, noting its potential to invigorate the local economy and make a substantial contribution to UK inward investment. The project is not only a major economic driver but also a significant step towards embracing cutting-edge, sustainable technology solutions.
As the project awaits further review and endorsement, it stands as a beacon of innovation and environmental stewardship. The London Data Freeport is not just a data center; it is a symbol of the future – a future where technology and sustainability coexist to create a smarter, greener world.