Huge data centre given go-ahead in 2008 could be built after all

A huge data centre that was given the green light to be built back in 2008 could finally be going ahead – after residents complained after lorries “thundering” up and down an A-road. Residents who drive or live along the A4010 Bradenham Road say there is a “major operation” going on at the old Molins factory in Haw Lane in Saunderton, despite confusion over what is actually being built there. A 78,000 sqm data centre was given the go-ahead to be built by Wycombe District Council in November 2008, but other than clearing some of the old factory buildings, construction work never started.

The old tobacco machine factory site was then a target for housing developers, with St Congar Land putting forward controversial plans for 212 homes back in 2015. This plan was refused, and a subsequent appeal on the matter was dismissed in 2017. The developer then revealed plans for a revised scheme of 130 homes would go to the council in 2020.

But then in December last year workmen for TMT Construction were seen on site with grabbers and trucks. At the time, UK investment business Greystoke (and ERLP) submitted an outline planning application for part of the site, with designs to demolish and clear the existing industrial buildings (2,245 sqm) for a residential redevelopment of up to nine new houses. That same application was withdrawn in February.

However, since then, workers were seen clearing the site, but back in June, Bucks Council said it was “not aware of any development” going on there and said enforcement action would be taken if it was unauthorised. But Saunderton residents said work on the site has ramped up in recent weeks, with lorries filled with spoil heading away from the old factory, “thundering” up and down the A4010. Roy James said: “Literally lorry after lorry thundering along Bradenham Road clearing the Molins site although the council still say no permission has been granted.

“Drove past this morning and it is a major operation and the lorry drivers are reminiscent of the hell drivers. Impossible to get the truth from Buckinghamshire Council.” The Bucks Free Press asked Buckinghamshire Council if they knew what was going on with the site.

Cllr Peter Strachan, Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, said: “We can confirm that works have been undertaken on the site. The planning permission was granted in 2008. “The owner is in the process of carrying out preliminary works – which include ecological fencing and general site clearance to facilitate an initial phase of building works.”

With a string of different planning applications submitted for the site, we asked the council for further clarification. A spokesman added: “We believe that the site owner is preparing the site for the approved data centre buildings that have a planning permission.” The plans given the green light in 2008 were for four data centre buildings with 150 parking spaces and associated landscaping and security fences and gates.

According to a Bucks Free Press article in 2009, the centre would be 25 acres and would need a power feed the size of a town of 77,000 homes when fully operational, which led to some concern from councillors about the environmental impact of the development.

The Bucks Free Press has contacted German company e-shelter, who were the applicants for the data centre back in 2008, for more details.