Court grants judicial review of Co Meath data centre plan

Local residents claim planning decision did not consider climate change emissions impact

A High Court challenge has been brought against An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to give the go-ahead for a data centre in Co Meath.

A High Court challenge has been brought against An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to give the go-ahead for a data centre in Co Meath.

 

A High Court challenge has been brought against An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to give the go-ahead for a data centre in Co Meath.

The action has been brought by Mannix Coyne and his daughter Amy Coyne, who live at Bracetown, Clonee, Co Meath, close to the 24.5-hectare site where permission has been given to allow EngineNode Ltd build a data centre.

At the High Court on Wednesday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons, granting them permission to bring their judicial review proceedings, said the case raised important points of domestic and EU law.

The proposed centre includes four two-storey data storage buildings, offices as well as associated roads and a car park. If constructed it is claimed that the centre will require of 180 megawatts of electricity per year and will generate an estimated 1 per cent of Ireland’s total annual carbon dioxide emissions.

The Coynes, claim the planning authority’s decision in early July granting planning permission is flawed, invalid and should be set aside.

Represented by barrister Jon Kenny, instructed by solicitor Gabriel Toolan, the Coynes claim the decision does not comply with planning regulations, the 2000 Planning and Development Act and the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments.

They argue that the board failed to assess, identify and describe the environmental impact that will result from carbon dioxide emissions produced as a result of the proposed development. No regard was given by the board to the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, it is alleged.

The grant of permission, it is claimed, will result in the production of very significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions, which has breached the Coynes constitutional right to life, bodily integrity and to a healthy environment.

They also claim they will suffer major loss of amenity, privacy as well serious disturbance to the equine business they operate from their home if the centre and the associated works are carried out.

Counsel said the developer had originally proposed to build an energy centre on the site to provide some of the power it requires. That part of proposed development was dropped, impacting on the levels of carbon dioxide the centre would generate, when the application for planning permission went before the board.

This substantial change to the original proposal was not properly assessed by the board counsel said.

Counsel said another aspect of the Coynes’ challenge was that the board failed to properly assess the impact that proposed roadways and a roundabout on the site will have on his clients.

The decision also contravenes the EU Habitats Directive, counsel said.

In judicial review proceedings against the board, Ireland and the Attorney General, the Coynes seek orders including quashing the board’s decision to allow the data centre be constructed. EngineNode Ltd is a notice party to the proceedings.

In a second set of what are related proceeding, the Coynes are also challenging the board’s decision to allow a substation and grid connection works, associated with the proposed data centre, at Bracetown and Gunnock which are north of Clonee.

They also want to have that decision by the board quashed.

After hearing submissions from counsel Mr Justice Simons said he was satisfied to grant the Coynes permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring both their challenges.

The judge said the case raised important points of domestic and EU law, aspects of which have yet to be determined by the courts.

The judge also put a stay on the decisions, which prevents any works being carried out on the site, until the matter next returns before the court. He also gave the parties permission to return to court to seek to have the stay lifted.

The matter will return before the High Court in October when the new legal term commences.