AWS in the snafu data center planning app • The Register


Some companies will go out of their way to hide their business expansion plans, but it appears AWS has checked the name of a former UK company in an effort to conceal a planning application for a new data center.

The old cooling towers of Didcot Power Station sit idle on the skyline in Didcot, Oxfordshire

AWS is currently building at least three new data center sites in the UK: one in Bracknell, another at Burderop near Swindon, and the third on the site of the former Didcot A Power Station in Oxfordshire.

The cloud services badass used front companies registered in Delaware in the United States to submit planning applications for the first two, such as Mullhaven Properties LLC [PDF] in the case of the Burderop site, as detailed by local Swindon announcer, who noted that payments to Swindon Borough Council under the deal went through Amazon Data Services UK.

The use of such front companies was undoubtedly used to conceal Amazon’s involvement in the planning process, and there could be various reasons for this. It may have been feared that the planning application would provoke a negative reaction from the inhabitants of the region, or perhaps it would even lead to inflated costs if it was known that a giant global like Amazon was involved. Or maybe AWS just wanted to make it harder for rivals to find out about its expansion plans. The strategy is very common in applications to build server farms – as evidenced by the many forays by Google and other cloud computing companies into land acquisition.

Dissolved…and not in Delaware

However, the planning application for the development of Didcot is different and appears to have been registered in the name of a company which dissolved in 2015. This was spotted by Alan Turnbull of Secret Bases, who alerted The register to the anomaly, and also published details on this site.

For the Didcot development, the applicant’s name appearing on the planning request with South Oxfordshire District Council is Mr S Denton, trading as Willow Developments LLC, whose address is 155 Wellingborough Road, Rushden, Northants.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that this is not a Delaware address, but is actually the offices of a company called Elsby & Co Accountants. By a curious coincidence, there seems to be has been a company called Willow Developments Ltd registered at that address, but that particular company was dissolved on August 4, 2015.

Willow Developments Ltd. was registered in the name of a Sean Denton, who now operates another business, through which we were able to contact him. Denton told us he had no knowledge of Didcot’s accommodation request and insisted he was not involved in any way.

We also contacted Elsby & Co, who understandably were careful about what information they might divulge, but informed us that no company called Willow Developments was registered in those offices.

In the meantime, a glance at the planning application shows that it was indeed filed by an agent acting on behalf of a client company. In this case, the agent is listed as RPS Group plc, a professional services firm that offers project management and consulting services.

We contacted RPS and asked if the company could clear up the confusion regarding Willow Developments. In a statement, a company spokesperson told us: “We are aware that an administrative error has been made in the application, whereby Willow Developments Ltd’s publicly available contact details were mistakenly used on the application form. application forms, instead of those of Willow Developments LLC.

Willow Developments LLC is indeed registered at an address in the tiny mid-Atlantic US state of Delaware and is therefore likely to be the front company used to conceal the identity of the company behind the Didcot development.

How such confusion could arise is unclear, but we are prepared to give RPS Group the benefit of the doubt and assume that someone made a genuine mistake in completing the application form.

Whether such confusion has implications for planning permission is another matter. The register has sought a legal opinion on the matter, but it seems unlikely that this will have any repercussions, especially since the planning permission was apparently granted on September 9, 2021. RPS told us that he was reaching out to local authorities competent planners to error.

AWS declined to comment. ®


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