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The point that needs making alongside this Telegraph piece is that the UK is a globally important data centre market and the volume of data being produced is growing exponentially, and this needs addressing in the immediate term. This incredible growth is driven by a national appetite from public sector, businesses and consumers and the most efficient way to serve this need is through hyperscale data centres.

In addition to large land requirements, data centres have unique specifications that cannot be met everywhere. The majority of the UK Green Belt would not be affected by these proposed changes, but there are some places, particularly in the South East, where the planning process needs to be more responsive to these services and the opportunities they can bring. This needs positive movement, or the UK will be left behind.

It is encouraging that some quarters are recognising that this strong growth in demand for data centre capacity is directly and massively important to the UK economy and its competitiveness. However, the demand for data centre capacity is now, and reclassifying them as nationally significant infrastructure projects has the potential consequence of slowing down the route to market in the short term.

What is required is a public statement underlining that data centres form a critical function in supporting the digital economy and that this is given very significant weight in the decision-making process, plus better planning guidance on assessing the locational requirements of data centres. In addition, a new use class - for example, B8 (data centres)—should be created. This would balance global appetite and local decision-making in a much more effective way, regardless of who is in government next. 

Labour is planning to override local councils to build data centres on the green belt, as Sir Keir Starmer’s Opposition seeks to boost Britain’s artificial intelligence industry...


planning, insight