Industrial construction giant Panattoni will be building a data center in the UK with Pure DC in Borehamwood, North London, after Hertsmere Borough Council approved its application this week.

Panattoni will be building a 41,763 sqm (449,500 sq ft) facility for Pure DC, after the council decided in its favor, despite some resistance because members initially feared there would be too many staff on site. Panattoni is already on site and will be tearing down some warehouses it built on spec, after it bought the former Sainsbury's depot on Elstree Way.

The site was most recently a Sainsbury's frozen food depot but, until 1970, it was the site of MGM's Elstree Studio, where films were made including 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Dirty Dozen.

pure dce panattoni borehamwood.jpg
– Panattoni

Britain's Hollywood

Film connections continued with other companies operating studios in Elstree/Borehamwood, and Sky Studios is soon to open adjacent to the 5.5 hectare Pure DC site.

The frozen food depot was abandoned by Sainsbury's in 2018, and bought by Panattoni who built two warehouses there on spec. DCD understands that the change of plan took place when Pure DC proposed a more profitable option and set up a joint venture with Panattoni to demolish them and replace them with a more profitable data center, as described in plans submitted with Pure DC in late 2020.

The three-story building will reportedly have more than 50MW capacity and will have 42 backup generators at the rear of the site.

The data center will have up to 117 staff, a level which caused some unusual discussion at the planning meeting. Data center projects are often criticized for the small numbers of staff they will employ, but in this case, Pure DC had to petition to be allowed more staff on-site, apparently because the local authorities feared it would cause excessive traffic.

The initial conditions issued by the council included a limit of 20 staff on the site at any one time. Pure DC's original planning statement asked for 60 staff, which was later changed to 117.

"The applicants had contacted the planning officer to say that they objected to Condition 7 of that report, which would have placed a limit of 20 on the number of people who would be allowed on the site at any time," according to documents discussed at yesterday's meeting. That condition was requested by Hertfordshire County Council and Highways England, to ensure "that the proposed development would not cause a significant or harmful increase in vehicle trips affecting the highway network."

When Pure DC asked for a maximum of 60 staff overall, "officers assumed from this that three shifts of 20 were proposed, although that was not stated specifically in any of the supporting documents. It was considered that such a condition was doing no more than holding the applicants to their own proposal as regards the maximum number of staff on any shift."

Pure DC now wants to have 117 staff in total. It submitted amended documents, including a travel plan which includes measures such as extra cycle racks, and the application was approved.

The application also promised to fully use the roof of the facility for solar panels, and to source all electricity used in the facility from renewable sources.

More to come

Pure DC does not currently have any data centers in the UK, but this is its third project in the country.

It built a small data center in Birmingham which was sold to operating partners GTP3.

And it has also been quietly building another large facility only seven miles from the center of London, in Priestley Way, Staples Corner, Brent Cross. This data center, being built for an unknown partner, will be expanded to 40MW.