West London faces housebuilding ban as electricity grid runs out of capacity

Mayor demands urgent action over power constraints brought about by construction of new data centres

Apartments under construction in Hammersmith, west London, England. Reuters
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West London faces a pause on the construction of new homes because the power grid is struggling to cope with additional demand, according to reports.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has warned developers in a letter that new housing developments, as well as plans for new industrial and commercial premises, face a wait of up to a decade until capacity is sufficiently upgraded.

A representative for the mayor of London has said he was “very concerned” over the power constraints which are affecting the boroughs of Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow.

Those areas are hubs for new construction activity, with more than 5,000 new housing units built there in 2019-2020, almost 11 per cent of the new homes pipeline.

Concerns over the power supply could have a major impact on future developments, and add to the chronic shortage of homes in the city.

The GLA says pressure on the energy supply has been exacerbated by the development of new data centres which have been built alongside the M4 motorway.

“Data centres use large quantities of electricity, the equivalent of towns or small cities, to power servers and ensure resilience in service,” according to the GLA note that was seen by the Financial Times.

The FT report said that new developments in the area have already been rejected due to concerns over the overstretched power grid.

London's mayor Sadiq Khan said that the UK government had declined a meeting with his office over concerns about electricity capacity constraints, which he said posed a significant challenge for developers and could “affect the delivery of thousands of much-needed homes”.

“In the midst of a housing crisis, he is calling on ministers to work with him to resolve this issue urgently”, a spokesman for Mr Khan said.

“The mayor’s team is also working closely with the network providers responsible, to seek solutions to mitigate the potential delays and unlock the issue. These solutions do not affect planning permission.”

Updated: July 28, 2022, 9:11 PM