An environmental group has warned that a proposed datacentre on Havering's green belt would set a “dangerous precedent”. 

The plan, presented jointly by Havering Council and developer Digital Reef, involves the construction of 15 warehouse-sized data storage facilities within a new “ecology park” outside the M25, east of Upminster and Cranham. 

Havering Council describes the datacentre as a “£5.3 billion inward investment” that would create 1,200 local jobs and bring in approximately £13.5 million in income within four years. 

The proposed site aspires to be carbon neutral, though this would only be achieved by offsetting its energy use against the ecological benefits of the park, and its use of renewable energy.

Ian Pirie, co-ordinator at Havering Friends of the Earth, said the group is “extremely concerned” about the proposal. 

He said: “The area to the east of the borough is already going to be seriously damaged if the Lower Thames Crossing – which we oppose - goes ahead, and to put new buildings on Green Belt land would create a dangerous precedent. 

“We recognise that the proposal is at a very early stage and would want to comment further when more details are known.” 

Romford Recorder: Ian Pirie, co-ordinator at Havering Friends of the EarthIan Pirie, co-ordinator at Havering Friends of the Earth (Image: Ian Pirie)

Cllr Ray Morgon, leader of Havering Council, said any construction on the Green Belt would require “very special circumstances”, and so “no individual case would set a precedent”. 

He said: “Through the local plan refresh, we will also be considering how to protect good quality, publicly accessible open space in Havering. 

“We value our green spaces, which is why the majority of the site, up to 300 acres which is currently inaccessible to the public, will also become an ecology and community forest park for the public to enjoy. It will actually open up green space, creating valuable ecology corridors, bridle paths and walking and cycling routes from east to west for everyone to enjoy.” 

Cllr Morgon added the loss of farmland will be compensated by the research and development opportunities on-site, led by the University of Leicester, including creating efficient food production. 

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