Article by Alex Wright, Director,Outer London and the Regions
The world has become dependent on the internet for almost every aspect of life. The various lock-downs of the past two years have shown that we can work remotely and manage our homes and social lives through our digital services. The amount of data we each use and create is staggering, and this data, together with the digital infrastructure that we all need has to be accommodated in data centres. The “cloud” is itself a collection of publicly accessible servers that are housed in data centres, linked via an infrastructure of fibre optic and satellite connectivity.
Whilst London has found the space for data centres, Kanda is seeing that there is an increasing demand for space outside of London, particularly in those counties that have excellent digital and electrical infrastructure. Data centres are evolving and now require highly sophisticated security and energy efficiency. They are expected to have a life of around nine years (some say six years) before they need to be upgraded or enlarged so this is a very fast-moving area of development.
Buckinghamshire has been a very important area of recent growth for data centre location, but sites in other home counties are also being considered by data centre providers. On the face of it these developments do not contribute to the local community in the way that housing or possibly office/manufacturing developments do. They are rather strange, secure and forbidding buildings often sited on brownfield or other areas. Local communities are naturally concerned about the potential for noise, and about the physical unattractiveness of the buildings, as well as potentially questioning the need for these sites in their areas, sites which arguably could be used for other more traditional development.
The difficulties in obtaining consent for these sites is also often with the local authority planning officers. Planning authorities are very overstretched in some counties and are more used to allocating sites for housing or employment. It can be challenging for developers to promote the benefits of data centres and overcome objections when they are not able to offer affordable housing or public access to the sites. Whilst everyone understands the need for data centres, they would rather that they were built somewhere else. Local planning authorities are unlikely to see any significant uplift in resourcing any time soon, and that includes training on the need for data centres. At the time of writing there is little movement on the government’s plans to modernise the planning system and we do see Secretary of State intervention on some sites in the interests of national infrastructure.
At Kanda we are working on many data centre applications outside of London. We quickly and effectively navigate the local political, community and planning authority environment in counties across the Southeast, and understand what developers need to demonstrate to help overcome objections to gain a consent.
For more information contact Alex Wright, Director.