Apple looks to extend planning permission at Athenry data centre site

28 Jun 2021

Artist's concept of the original planned data centre in Athenry. Image: Apple

The company is seeking to extend planning permission on the Galway site that it is currently trying to sell.

Apple has applied to extend planning permission for the site where it once planned an €850m data centre.

The iPhone maker has submitted a new application to Galway County Council seeking a five-year extension on the Derrydonnell site in Athenry.

Apple famously pulled the plug on its planned €850m development on the site in 2018 after years of planning objections and delays stymied the project.

It was first granted planning permission in 2016 on the 490-acre plot of land. The initial development by Apple was expected to create 150 permanent jobs at the facility, but ultimately Apple backed away from Athenry.

Despite Apple shelving its development, it retained planning permission until this year and is now seeking an extension. Galway County Council is expected to make a decision on 8 August.

It was reported in 2019 that Apple was looking to sell the site. Its extension application said that the company plans to “support the provision of the consented works by identifying interested parties to develop the project” at the Athenry site within the new timeframe.

“The subject development will strengthen Ireland’s data storage facilities while also providing significant and much needed investment and employment in Co Galway and the western region as a whole,” it added.

Apple’s choice of Co Galway for a data centre made for a change of scenery for data centre development in Ireland. Many are clustered around Dublin and its bordering counties – two weeks ago Amazon secured the go-ahead for a facility in Drogheda.

But these developments in the east of the country have put a severe strain on the region’s electricity grid.

Updated, 11.15am, 28 June 2021: The previous headline on this article was ‘Apple renews hopes for Athenry data centre’. This headline, and some of the text in the article, was updated to make it clearer that Apple’s data centre plans have not changed, but the company plans to identify other parties that could develop the project.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin