HJA was appointed by WT Lamb Holdings to undertake an economic impact assessment of potential development options at Lamb’s Business Park, South Godstone, Surrey. The subject site was a former brickworks located immediately south of the Reading to Tonbridge Railway line in Tandridge District and was being promoted for redevelopment to include a Biomass Gasification Plant and one or more Data Centres.
Our analysis covered two phases.
In phase 1, HJA prepared an economic impact assessment report, in line with best practice guidance. The overall approach followed the principles of HM Treasury ‘Green Book’ Appraisal and Evaluation in Central Government and best practice and guidance documents.
This assessment considered both the construction and operational phases of the proposed development. It considered the direct, indirect and induced impact on employment, wages and GVA from the development of two similar but different development scenarios taking place. It also captured the wider effects which may take place if these development scenarios were implemented, such as agglomeration effects from both the biomass gasification plants and data centre(s), along with the local fiscal benefit of development.
The first option of development consisted of the following:
- A c.6,795 sq m biomass gasification plant (15MW) plus associated infrastructure;
- A single 10,284 sq m data centre (over 2-3 storeys) and associated infrastructure;
- Reconfiguration of approximately 9,830 sq m (105,800 sq ft) of occupied premises and storage compounds; and
- The use of the former pit areas as flood alleviation and a nature reserve.
The second option for development was the same as the first except it consisted of two rather than one data centre at the site.
Additionality was accounted for – this included consideration of the ‘do nothing’ or reference case scenario to assess deadweight, considering the effects of leakage, displacement, substitution and multiplier effects. Multiplier effects included the benefits of an improved digital infrastructure, improved supply chain and knowledge-sharing activities, case studies on the impact of data centres beyond the FEMA and local fiscal benefits.
In phase 2, HJA developed this initial work by providing research on the proposed development’s fit with economic policy and strategy from the national to the local level. This research was based on a review of the relevant documents and consultations with key stakeholder organisations. At a national level, the policy review covered green belt policy and government strategy with respect to the development of data centres and national renewable energy goals. The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership Strategic Economic Plan 2014 was considered, along with the Coast to Capital Growth Deal, European Structural and Investment Funds Strategy 2014 – 2020 and Coast to Capital Sector Report: Creative, Digital and IT. Particular reference was made to understanding the needs and objectives of its strategies for economic development in the digital, creative and IT sectors. At the local level, policy was reviewed from the Tandridge District Council Local Plan and supporting documentation. This considered both supply and demand factors for economic growth, with a particular focus on land use.
Through this review, HJA successfully demonstrated the alignment of the proposed development with the policy goals and ambitions of local, regional and national governments.