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Amsterdam new-build datacentre ban is not an ‘attack’ on operators, says government

Dutch Data Center Association says a government official has offered written assurances that the temporary ban on new server farms in two areas of Amsterdam is just designed to spur adoption of sustainable growth habits

Amsterdam’s datacentre community has been assured by the government that its ban on new-build facilities in certain parts of the city should not be seen as an attack on their livelihoods, it is claimed.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the Dutch municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer issued a temporary ban on the construction of new datacentres in July 2019, because of concerns about the growing burden on the local electricity grid from server farms.

Authorities have also raised concerns about the growing amount of space taken up by datacentres in the region, and have said the ban must remain in place until a new policy is drawn up ensuring that future builds are embarked upon in a sustainable way.

According to an update from the Dutch Data Center Association (DDA), this work is on course to be done by the end of the year, with the government and industry working together to create a sustainable datacentre growth strategy to shape future developments in Amsterdam.

The DDA also claims to have received written confirmation of this delivery timeline in a letter from Stan Kaatee, a director working within Amsterdam’s ministry of economic affairs.

The letter is said to contain assurances from Kaatee that the temporary halt on datacentre builds within the two regions is “by no means an attack” on the industry, but is designed to focus collective minds on achieving sustainable growth.  

“On the contrary, in consultation with the sector, the municipalities want to work on a set of instruments to enable sustainable growth of the datacentre industry,” said the DDA précis of Kaatee’s letter. “This enables the municipalities to manage its spatial planning, as well as the supply and distribution of power to the city.”

To reinforce this point, the DDA said Kaatee acknowledged the important role that datacentres play in society by describing the facilities as “fundamental” to the Netherlands’ positioning as the “digital gateway to Europe”.

Read more about datacentre growth pressures

Amsterdam is considered to be one of Europe’s four main datacentre hubs, along with Frankfurt, London and Paris. According to recent data from real estate consultancy CBRE, the temporary ban on new-builds in the city has had little impact on the colocation market growth there.

Instead, the decision is understood to have prompted operators, intent on buildings facilities in Amsterdam, to seek out alternative sites outside the restricted development zones.

This is a trend that Stijn Grove, managing director of the DDA, is keen to encourage, hoping it may stimulate the development of multiple datacentre clusters in the Netherlands.

“We are happy that we are on track to find a solution for short-term growth of the existing Amsterdam clusters,” said Grove. “But in the long run, we need new, additional datacentre clusters.

“New datacentre clusters will provide increased resilience. Digitisation will not stop and structural investments in digital infrastructures will need to continue in various places in the Netherlands. However, it is also important to realise that the formation of a new datacentre cluster does not happen overnight – it takes time.”

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