A plan to build a data centre on a former quarry next to the M25 has been rejected by a government minister – in part because it might ruin the view from the motorway’s bridges.
The more than 50 hectare site in Iver, Buckinghamshire, would have sat on a former quarry and would have provided vital computing power for UK industry.
However after a protracted local battle, local government minister Lee Rowley has green-lit the planning inspector’s decision to nix the project.
Some of the site would, a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to developer Pegasus Planning. significantly alter the character and appearance of the area from that of open land… to that of an area dominated by 3 large buildings.”
The site does however sit next door to the pre-existing West London Industrial Park, and almost directly abuts the M25 – the busiest motorway in the United Kingdom.
The planning inspector’s decision, which the government has backed, suggests that the “upper floors of the buildings” would be the dominant view from nearby sites, including “the bridges over the M25 and the M25 itself.”
Whilst the planning inspector admits that the site is “not in active use” it does have a “rough texture brought about by the scrub and grassland which cover a large part of the area.”
“It is clear to me that whilst the appeal site does suffer from being a damaged landscape due to its history of quarrying and landfill its current appearance and character is not untypical of landscape in this character area,” the inspector wrote.
The developers behind the plans have pledged to plant around 18,000 trees, however the council remains of the view that “the trees themselves” would significantly change the character of the site.
Only around 7 of the hectares of the 52 hectare site would be built on, and 77 per cent of the site would remain undeveloped even after the creation of car parks and access roads.
The local council, which initially rejected the plans, did acknowledge there “is an urgent need for increased data centre capacity, but only up to 2027” but said “the demand for data centres after 2026 cannot be predicted.”
Data centres are considered the engine of the modern economy, providing hubs for the data processing that powers everything from traffic lights to the internet of things.
According to the CPRE, “the rapid growth of artificial intelligence—along with other modern technologies, such as streaming, gaming and self-driving cars—is expected to drive continued strong data center demand.”
The Council said that the “sustainable answer to the need for new data centres… must be met, but met elsewhere.”
The decision, published across a 101 page document including 41 pages of annexes, was described as “utterly deranged” on social media today.
The former No. 10 advisor Dominic Cummings said that this was an example of the system working “as intended.”
Meanwhile the local MP for Beaconsfield, Joy Morrissey, welcomed the decision to kibosh the project.
According to the developers, the project would have delivered around 500 apprenticeships in the local area on top of wider job creation.