Local officials have denied planning permission for a new residential development that was paving the way for a future data center.

The application was seeking to develop a 36-story student-housing block and a 30-story build-to-rent block on the site of the borough’s Mulberry Place headquarters and a neighboring office building in Blackwall.

The application was also seeking outline planning permission for a 35,000 sqm (376,700 sq ft), 30MW data center on the site.

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– EID | Tower Hamlets Council

Though recommended by council planning officers and expected to authorize the application, Tower Hamlets Council’s strategic development committee instead voted 5:2 to reject the proposal.

Local press report that councilors dismissed SimpsonHaugh’s proposals as “bulky” and a negative impact on the nearby Naval Row Conservation Area, which includes a stretch of the grade II-listed East India Dock wall. Concerns about the mix of affordable housing proposed under the scheme were also raised.

The council's planning officers had recommended the proposal be approved, noted the number of affordable homes was policy compliant, and warned the authority would find it “difficult” to defend the decision if it goes to appeal.

Abdul Wahid, of Tower Hamlets’ ruling Aspire Party – set up by elected mayor Lutfur Rahman, who returned to power in May’s local elections – said the proposals were too “bulky” and out of keeping with the neighborhood.

“I don’t think the design fits in right with the character of the local area,” he said. “It seems exceptionally dense. I believe it looks out of place within the conservation area and the grade II-listing that we have.”

The eight-floor data center could have a potential IT power of 30MW and feature six halls each of 1,200 sqm (12,900 sq ft). The filing notes the facility would require a back-up source of power ‘in the form of 18 diesel-fuelled generators of 3.3 MW.’ No end-user for the data center was listed, but Global Switch owns facilities directly to the north and east of the proposed development. Telehouse also owns several facilities in the vicinity.

The docks opened in 1806 and closed in the late 1960s. In 1992 the site was redeveloped to create an office campus comprising four main buildings, providing disaster recovery space for businesses at Canary Wharf, together with Tower Hamlets Council Town Hall at Mulberry Place.

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