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Planned Oxfordshire data centre hit with local objections

Written by Thu 13 Jul 2023

De Montalt Life Sciences has filed an application to develop a major industrial estate and data centre at a former quarry in Faringdon, Oxfordshire.

The proposed science and technology campus at the former Wicklesham Quarry will span 42,286 sqm (455,163 sqft). The capacity and size of the data centre has not been revealed.

Plans for the development were submitted on behalf of  De Montalt Life Sciences by Mango Planning & Development. According to the outline planning application, they have identified a market requirement for new research and laboratory accommodation to support established hubs at Oxford Science Park, ARC, Milton Park, and Harwell.

“The application will deliver a completely new build campus, in a unique setting, able to provide new capacity for, and embrace the evolving accommodation models of, emerging companies in this rapidly growing sector,” said De Montalt Life Sciences in press release.

The Wickleham Quarry site was selected due to its highway network links connections to existing and new, affordable residential areas.

“We are confident that this will provide future occupiers with an environment that will be conducive towards groundbreaking research and advancements in the Life Science, and Biotech and Knowledge economy fields,” added De Montalt Life Sciences.

The prospect of new jobs and opportunities for the town were welcomed by some residents.

“The area needs more employment opportunities, as it stands Faringdon is just a commuting town for people to sleep then have to travel to work,” said one resident.

The application is still in the consultation phase, which will end on 27 July. White Horse Vale District Council is expected to make a decision on the application by 21 September.

Locals share their concerns

Many residents in the local are have objected to the development.

Anna Hoare has campaigned against the site, gathering almost 2,000 signatures for her petition.

“This industrial monster would loom over views towards Faringdon from the footpaths, public bridleway, and houses alongside Wicklesham Quarry, virtually obliterating them, and would dominate views from Folly Hill and Galley Hill, our most important viewing points and amenity areas,” said Hoare.

Many residents echo this sentiment, citing destruction of local habitats and wildlife as the cause to their objections.

“This will be an absolute blight on the local area in terms of damage to the environment … I can not see any positives to this in any way,” said Paul Cullinan.

Resident Julia Gilbert said: “This development will badly impact, or even destroy, an area of outstanding scientific interest. It will adversely affect views of the landscape.”

“I see no evidence of exactly how this will improve biodiversity, protect our green spaces, or provide facilities Faringdon is missing,” echoed Emma Roodenburg.

Some residents also noted the lack of supporting data to the application. One complainant said the application fails to include key environmental data, including the fact that the proposed area is a Conservation Target Area and Priority Habitat.

“This is one of the most disingenuous planning applications I have ever seen,” said Robert Todd.

Residents are also concerned with the original planning conditions of the quarry site.

“It was to be returned to agriculture once the mineral extraction was completed. That is what was agreed and that is what should happen”, said Jenny Lowe.

Similar opinions were voiced for the newly proposed 96MW data centre in Hertfordshire filed by Greystoke Land.

Environmental initiatives

Although the proposed development will require the removal of existing green land, the proposed development site has the potential to provide a location of wildlife habitat value and biodiversity conservation importance, according to a Preliminary Ecological Assessment.

De Montalt Life Sciences will take a number of initiatives to help preserve the environment, including a Linear Park that would combine with landscape spaces to provide a significant area of opportunity for the development of nature conservation interest. Woodland Habitat Consolidation would also take place, where woodland tree and shrub planting is expected strengthen the existing tree planting matrix.

The establishment of a site perimeter and interior open space corridors is also  said to significantly increase opportunities for biodiversity conservation within the site and to encourage wildlife dispersal through the complete development.

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Written by Thu 13 Jul 2023

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