The difficulties encountered during the Athenry saga sees the government seeking planning changes.
According to RTÉ News, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said that data centres will in future be considered strategic infrastructure in terms of the planning process, meaning applicants will bypass the need to ask for permission from the local authority and instead go directly to An Bord Pleanála. Although the recent High Court decision had ostensibly cleared the way for the Apple Athenry data centre project to commence, it doesn’t look as though this will happen any time in the near future.
The Government’s decision to implement this policy change had been taken before the High Court ruling had been made.
The change will ideally allow large-scale data centre projects to move through the planning stage faster, and avoid the hiccups and delays that played out over the last number of years in Athenry.
IDA chief expresses disappointment
IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan spoke on RTÉ Radio yesterday (5 November) about his disappointment over the delays plaguing the proposed Apple data centre project.
He confirmed that Apple was continuing to “consider Athenry in the context of their Irish business plans”, but the company had not committed to commencing the data centre immediately.
Shanahan said: “This was hard-won investment in the first instance and it would be a significant investment for Athenry and for the West, and the fact that it has been delayed through the planning process for the last two years is disappointing and the fact that it is not proceeding now immediately is disappointing.”
His words follow a meeting that took place between Varadkar and Apple CEO Tim Cook in the US, where Varadkar admitted that the Government “didn’t get a start date, or a definite commitment or anything like that”.
Varadkar continued: “But certainly, from our point of view, we really impressed on them very strongly how much the Government is behind the project, how we will do anything within our power to facilitate it, and how the people of Galway and Athenry in particular really want it to happen.”
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD. Image: Anna Haas/EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)