Data center electricity demands could curtail London housing development

Data centers might be the lifeblood of the modern digital economy but for housing developers in some parts of London they could curtail building plans for the next 13 years.

According to a report in today’s Financial Times, developers on the western side of the U.K. capital may be prevented from working on larger multitenant properties due to current strains on the electricity grid caused by nearby data centers.

The affected areas, which include the boroughs of Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon, are less than 13 miles away from the town of Slough, which has emerged as a major data center hotspot due to its proximity to fiber optic cables that traverse the M4 corridor on their way to North America via the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, companies including Equinix, Rackspace and Iron Mountain have data centers in the area, with new facilities from other companies in development.

Data center demands

It goes without saying that data centers require a great deal of power, which is why the Great London Authority (GLA) has apparently written to housing developers warning that there could be restrictions on new builds of more than 25 units in size.

This is problematic for a number of reasons, chief among them being lofty housing targets set out by the Mayor back in 2017, which noted that 65,000 new homes were needed each year in the Greater London area. While the pandemic, Brexit and inflation were impacting those targets already, it seems that data centers can now be added to the mix, with GLA reportedly telling developers that it may take another decade at least to bolster the grid capacity for the three affected boroughs.

TechCrunch has reached out to the GLA and will update here once we receive comment.