A New Era for Data Centers? Labour’s Plans for UK Economic Revival


As Rokhsana Fiaz approaches the midpoint of her second term as mayor of Newham, she’s focused on tackling the borough’s pressing issues, including poverty and a high rate of residents living in temporary housing. But Fiaz believes that artificial intelligence could be the key to unlocking economic growth, and she’s pushing for Newham to get a share of the multimillion-pound data center market.

Fiaz’s enthusiasm for data centers reflects the sentiment of a new generation of Labour politicians, who are campaigning on a platform that promises to harness the potential of AI to boost the economy. With polls predicting a Labour victory in the upcoming UK election, the party is likely to make good on its pledge to make it easier to build data centers across the country.

Last month, Newham approved the construction of a new data center on a plot of industrial land overlooking the River Thames. While some residents had initially opposed the project, citing concerns about noise and disruption, the plan was ultimately welcomed by the local community. However, not everyone is convinced that the data center is a good idea. “We have zero need for it,” said one local resident, who declined to give his name.

If Labour does take power, the party will need to convince the public that more data centers are necessary, and decide where they should be located. This could be a challenging task, given the widespread opposition to data center development in areas known as the “green belt,” where residents are concerned about the impact on the environment and local communities.

Labour is aware of the potential conflict between developers and locals, and is preparing for a campaign to convince the public that data centers are necessary. However, residents in other cities, such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Dublin, have already clashed with data center developers over concerns about power consumption and water usage. As a result, these cities have imposed restrictions on new developments.

“The question is, what does the country value most?” said Jane Griffin, spokesperson for the Colne Valley Regional Park, a protected area of farmland, woodland, and lakes on the outskirts of London. “Do we want to preserve green spaces with trees and lakes, or do we want to build massive data centers?”

Morgan Meaker
Morgan Meaker
Morgan Meaker is a senior writer covering Europe and European business from London. She won the top prize at the BSME Awards in 2023. Previously, her journalism was published by the BBC, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, Reuters, The Guardian, Politico, Deutsche Welle, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and De Correspondent.

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