The High Court has cleared the way for Apple's €850m Athenry data centre

The tech company has faced a near three-year wait for the development.

By Peter Bodkin Editor, Fora

THE HIGH COURT has cleared the way for Apple’s planned €850 million data centre at Athenry after a near three-year wait for the project to get off the ground.

The court today upheld An Bord Pleanála’s earlier decision to approve the centre despite local complaints about potential traffic problems and environmental impact from the 116,000 sq m facility.

It is expected around 300 jobs will be supported throughout the various stages of the project, although it will require a fraction of that number to run the complex once it’s completed.

Three complainants, including a Wicklow landholder, Brian McDonagh, who wanted a data centre built on his site, appealed the planning authority’s ruling to the High Court.

Justice Paul McDermott refused objectors’ applications to overturn the ruling, dismissing one challenge on the grounds of the environmental impact of the development.

He also rejected McDonagh’s appeal on the grounds he didn’t have the legal standing to challenge the planning appeal as a non-resident. McDonagh also failed to disclose that he was the director of a firm with planning permission for an alternate data centre location.

In jeopardy

As previously set out by Fora, the court case added to the drawn-out process since the US tech giant first applied for planning permission on the Coillte-owned Galway site.

Last month, it was reported that Apple recently warned Irish officials that the lengthy delays could jeopardise the future of the project.

A Denmark data centre announced at the same time as the Galway facility will be operating by the end of the year, while Apple has since announced a second centre in the Scandinavian country.

However, the government maintained the company was still committed to the Irish project.

American Chamber of Commerce Ireland CEO Mark Redmond said today’s decision was “a positive outcome for Galway and the western region”.

Nevertheless, he called for a “root-and-branch review” of Ireland’s planning system following the delays.

“While there should always be appropriate checks and balances in place, it is vital that Ireland is best-in-class on the global stage if we are to maintain our very strong track record for inward investment,” Redmond said.

Data centre boom

Ireland has been a favoured location for data centre developments in recent years, with the country’s cool but consistent climate saving firms on energy costs in running the facilities.

The data centre boom has been behind a significant rise in energy demand in the country following developments from the likes of Amazon and Facebook here.

The Republic is also seen as offering a more business-friendly environment when it comes to data protection regulations.

The government has previously weighed into proceedings such as a bid by the US Department of Justice to access information stored on a Microsoft server in Dublin.

Note: This article has been updated to include details from the judgment.

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