A massive new data center campus is being proposed in the eastern London Borough of Havering.

Havering Council this week said it has been in negotiations with a private sector developer, Digital Reef, to build ‘Europe’s largest data center’ on a site of 175 hectares in the east of Havering, some 15 miles from east London’s established Docklands data center pocket.

Thames Data Free port - Reef Group.png
Rendering of theproposed London Data Freeport – Reef Group

The £5.3 billion ($5.97bn) ‘London Data Freeport’ project would reportedly include developing a “Zero Carbon facility” on the corner of Fen Lane and Dunnings Lane on land crossing North Ockendon and Upminster. The site is currently designated as green belt land.

The application filings say the project could be “a cornerstone” of the UK Government’s new focus on sovereign data. No other mention of potential customers is included in the application.

Located close to the Warley Substation, the proposed campus will consist of ten 50MW and five 20MW units, collectively supporting 600MW of capacity. The project would total around 330,000 sqm (3.55 million sq ft) of new data center floorspace. Filings suggest the developers are planning a five-year construction phase from 2023 through to 2027.

Reef said the existing substation has the capacity to power the proposed scale and has the ability to expand the power provision to the site; the site is also reportedly close to a ‘super fast broadband connectivity point’.

The developers said they will provide on-site renewables power generation and Battery Grid balancing. The campus is planned to provide heat recovery systems for low-carbon agritech farming.

The development includes a partnership with Space Park Leicester, the University of Leicester, and the Earth and Space Sustainability Initiative project, to support innovation in zero carbon energy, digital infrastructure, and the monitoring of agricultural and other land use activity.

The proposed project site sits within the outer boundary of the current Thames Freeport, one mile from the M25 and two miles from Upminster Underground and mainline rail stations. The council said up to 120 hectares/300 acres will also become an ecology park for the public to enjoy.

While the council mentioned Digital Reef, application filings name Reef Group as the developer. Founded in 2002, Reef Group develops retail, leisure, hotel, workplace, and residential projects. While not traditionally known for data centers, in April the company filed to build a 23-hectare technology and data center park in Didcot, Oxfordshire; the project would create up to 110,000 sqm (1.18 million sq ft) of data center development, and up to 20,000 sqm (215,000 sq ft) of battery storage. It is also involved in several manufacturing and healthcare/life sciences development projects.

Councillor Ray Morgon, Leader of Havering Council, said: “Havering can be incredibly proud to have attracted this investment interest through to this crucial stage and this report to Cabinet seeks to confirm the support of Members for the investment, in principle.

“This project represents one of the largest mobile investments globally, representing 25 percent of all UK inward investment in 2021 alone.”

Morgon said the project would boost Council finances and provide “a shot in the arm” for the wider local economy.

“I am truly excited for the opportunities that this inward investment can bring to the borough and our residents," he said.

The project will be reviewed at next week’s Cabinet meeting on November 8. The Havering Council Cabinet is recommended to “support and endorse the continued pursuit of all options to expedite delivery of the project” by council officers.

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