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12 Jun 2024

Labour Party to ease Green Belt restrictions for Data Centres

The UK Labour Party is reportedly gearing up to introduce significant changes in planning regulations for data centres, particularly those on greenfield land surrounding London, commonly called the Green Belt.

According to a report by the Telegraph, Peter Kyle, Labour's shadow science, innovation, and technology secretary, is considering reclassifying data centres as 'nationally significant infrastructure projects.' This reclassification would allow these projects to bypass local opposition, expediting the approval process.

The Green Belt challenge

The Green Belt is a designated area of countryside around London meant to curb urban sprawl and protect the environment. However, as London's data centre market grows, particularly in places like the Docklands to the east and Slough to the west, there is increasing interest in developing data centres in the Green Belt.

Local councils approving such projects have often rejected proposals encroaching on this protected land. For instance, Greystroke's project near Uxbridge was turned down last year, citing stringent Green Belt regulations as the reason. Another proposed project in Abbots Langley faced a similar fate earlier this year.

Nationally significant infrastructure

By designating data centre projects as nationally significant, Labour aims to shift the decision-making power from local councils to ministers. This move is expected to increase the number of applications for data centres in the Green Belt, particularly in a corridor in West London.

During a visit to the US last year, Peter Kyle met with tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Oracle. Microsoft reportedly highlighted the difficulties in securing planning permissions in the UK. In response, Kyle assured the tech industry that, even if data centres are not classified as critically significant, Labour intends to reform planning laws to facilitate their development.

Potential impact

If Labour wins the upcoming general election on July 4, these changes could significantly alter the landscape of data centre development in and around London. The party's predicted victory by a large margin indicates that these reforms could soon become a reality.

In summary, Labour's proposed easing of planning restrictions could pave the way for more data centres on Green Belt land, addressing the growing demand for data infrastructure while potentially sparking controversy over the use of protected land. As the general election approaches, the tech industry and environmental advocates will watch closely to see how these plans unfold.


Graham Smith

By Graham Smith