Galway TD warns of job losses over Apple data centre delays

Government plans to change law to fast-track data centres

 Horses  at the site  near Athenry in Co Galway  where Apple plans to build  a data centre. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Horses at the site near Athenry in Co Galway where Apple plans to build a data centre. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Ireland could lose out on jobs from multinational companies because of delays in planning permission for the proposed Apple data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, the Dáil was warned.

Independent TD Noel Grealish said there were fears that the 150 permanent jobs and 300 construction jobs for the development could go to Denmark.

The Galway West TD pointed out that nearly three years after Apple announced a €1.7 billion investment in a data centre in Athenry and in Denmark, the Danish project would be up and running by the end of this year but the plant in Co Galway has not even secured full planning permission yet.

The case is before the Commercial Court with a decision due on October 12th. Planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála last year. However, the project is the subject of a judicial review on environmental grounds following appeals by local residents and a landowner. Local business interests and campaigners in favour of the development now fear that even if the judicial review is rejected by the High Court, the decision could be appealed.

Fast-tracked

However, Government sources say that while there can be no interference in the current planning application before the courts, they intend to change the law to enable data centres to be fast-tracked through the planning system in future.

A working group in Government may also announce special designated areas for data centres, with an announcement expected in October.

Apple announced new plans last month to build a second data plant in Denmark to run entirely on renewable energy, prompting fears that this could be a replacement for Athenry.

Mr Varadkar said he shared Mr Grealish’s concerns about delays and the risks to other projects. He met Apple’s vice-president two weeks ago, who assured him of the company’s commitment to the project.

But Apple representatives made it clear “they are frustrated at the planning and judicial delays” and this could have an impact on future investments, Mr Varadkar said.

He said Ireland was described as the data centre of Europe with 27 centres currently. He visited the Athenry site during the summer and it was one of the biggest projects in the west, matched only by the Gort to Tuam motorway.