Facebook parent halts plans for controversial data center in Zeewolde
The American tech company Meta will not move forward with its plans for a data center in Zeewolde, Flevoland, for the time being. The Facebook parent company's plans have been met with a great deal of resistance. Meta now says the "current circumstances" have led to the plans being halted. The company states that it wants to be "a good neighbor" and that support from the local community is therefore indispensable.
The data center, which was to be the largest in the Netherlands, initially won the support of the Zeewolde city council. In December, eleven of the nineteen councilors agreed to change the zoning plan to allow the facility to be built. Proponents pointed to extra jobs and a boost in tax revenue. However, opponents to the data center won a majority in the last municipal elections, eviscerating local political support for the project.
Local political party Leefbaar Zeewolde was positive about Meta's announcement. "We are happy," said party chair Tom Zonneveld in an early reaction. "It is of course a postponement and not an adjustment, but it is another step in the right direction."
Leefbaar and ChristenUnie were clearly the fiercest opponents, but together they did not have enough council seats before the election to block the plan. The new council will be different. Leefbaar saw its number of seats double to ten in the recent municipal elections. The party intends to form a coalition with ChristenUnie, which now has four seats.
The opponents were concerned that the size of the data center would not suit a village like Zeewolde. The high power consumption was also a sticking point for critics, as was the question of whether the residual heat could be properly utilized.
"To put it bluntly, this feels to residents of Zeewolde as if it has been jammed down their throats," Zonneveld added. "They have not been properly included in the process."
Leefbaar wants Meta 's plans to be canceled for good. The party is now considering next steps and is investigating further details, like what exactly "suspending the plans" means, Zonneveld explained. The new Zeewolde city council will take office on Wednesday.
The fact that Zeewolde previously agreed to a change in the zoning plan did not guarantee that the construction of the data center could start. For this, Meta also needed permits from the municipality and the province of Flevoland. In addition, part of the land on which the data center was to be built is owned by the national government's real estate agency. That organization set sustainability requirements for the property's use before a possible sale could be concluded.
The suspension is "good news in itself," said Hugo de Jonge, the Minister of Spatial Planning and Housing. The government is not in favor of the arrival of such large data centers, due to the land and energy requirements. Stricter rules are being developed, and it was decided last month that no more permits will be issued in the coming months in anticipation of this.
Reporting by ANP