Council denies planning bid for datacentre near M25 a second time on Green Belt grounds

An investment company has had its second attempt at securing planning permission for a datacentre development on a patch of Green Belt Land in Iver, Buckinghamshire, denied by local authority planning officials.

Greystoke Land applied for outline planning permission to Buckinghamshire Council in March 2024 for its plans to build a datacentre of up to 72,000m2 in size on the former landfill site, which neighbours the M25 motorway.

The council, as confirmed by documents uploaded to the Buckinghamshire Council planning portal on Tuesday 25 June 2024, has refused planning permission for the project on the basis it would “constitute an inappropriate development of Green Belt Land” and harm the character and appearance of the area.

“[It] would result in harm to the openness of Green Belt in both spatial and visual terms and would conflict with the purposes of including land within the Green Belt,” the document stated.

“The harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness and the other harm identified is not clearly outweighed by the other material considerations, such as to constitute the very special circumstances necessary to permit inappropriate development in the Green Belt.”

The company has the option to raise an appeal against the local council’s decision in the case with the secretary of state. Computer Weekly contacted Greystoke to ask if this was a course of action it was planning to follow, but no response had been received at the time of writing.  

This is the second time Buckinghamshire Council has cited the need to safeguard the area’s Green Belt land as the reason to deny Greystoke permission to build a datacentre on the site.

The company’s original proposal featured a plan to build a larger datacentre on the site, which was denied by the council in September 2022, prompting Greystoke to challenge the decision by filing an appeal with the secretary of state, who dismissed the case on Green Belt protection grounds.

The planning application for Greystoke’s latest project, compiled by property development company Pegasus Group, confirms Greystoke has raised a legal challenge against the secretary of state’s decision to dismiss the appeal.

Computer Weekly contacted Pegasus and Greystoke to ask about the status of the legal challenge, but no response had been forthcoming at the time of publication.

“The revised proposals are materially different in terms of the amount, volume, height and built footprint of the proposed development,” the Pegasus Group document stated.

“This is in response to the secretary of state’s conclusions regarding the impact of the previous proposals on the Green Belt and the character and appearance of the area more generally, whilst still delivering a development that can make a very significant contribution to the undisputed need that exists in the Slough Availability Zone.”

As stated elsewhere in the document, there is an “undisputed need for datacentre capacity in the Slough Availability Zone and in the context of there being no alternatives to meet that need”.

While it remains to be seen if Greystoke will raise an appeal this time, the secretary of state’s decision to deny permission for the build first time around made national news headlines, with the government accused of being “deranged” for stopping the project from going ahead.

The case was also cited as an example of the type of datacentre development the Labour Party would look to support with its General Election manifesto pledge to accelerate the pace of datacentre developments by loosening the planning restrictions on them.

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